Wal-Mart took Jim Shank all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court trying to take more than $400,000 from the Shank family. As all America now knows, Deborah Shank had been in a car accident in 2000 and was severely brain damaged. Wal-Mart wanted Mrs. Shank’s money and filed suit to get it knowing full-well her tragic condition and needs. When the case finally moved into the court of public opinion, the giant retailer changed its mind and retreated from the judicial system. As a direct result of all the negative media reports and the public outcry, Wal-Mart has now dropped its claim on the money. Wal-Mart’s greed had threatened to push the Shanks into poverty and further despair. The world’s largest retailer now claims to have been “moved by Ms. Shank’s extraordinary situation,” and has apologized to the Shank family. Frankly, I don’t buy that public relations spin for a minute. The only reason Wal-Mart dropped its claim is the simple fact that the company was exposed as a corporation with no concern for the problems of people in trouble. It’s a classic example of corporate arrogance and greed. Shame on Wal-Mart!
Until the weight of public opinion came down on the company in full force, Wal-Mart was unapologetic for its demand that the Shanks repay $470,000 in medical expenses after the family received a settlement against the trucking company whose vehicle collided with Deborah Shank and caused her to be permanently injured, disabled and severely impaired. Prior to her 2000 accident, Deborah Shank had been employed by Wal-Mart to stock shelves. Wal-Mart’s medical plan paid her expenses, but Wal-Mart wanted its money back after the Shanks received a $1 million settlement from the trucking company. After payment of fees and other expenses, Deborah Shank’s husband was left with $417,000 in trust for his wife and Wal-Mart wanted all of it. This was despite his pleas that Deborah Shank, who is now confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home, still needs millions of dollars in medical care.
Jim Shank watched for eight years as his family’s world tragically unraveled. He was first hit with a devastating car crash that left his wife with a traumatic brain injury, and then had to deal with the death of his eldest son, a soldier in Iraq. After all of that, the man had to deal with Wal-Mart and its greedy corporate arrogance. I am convinced that the bosses at Wal-Mart would never have changed their minds in the Shank case if people all over the country demanded relief for the family. This is a classic example of what ordinary folks can do when they get involved in a just cause and join forces to overcome an unjust situation. Hopefully, this victory will energize folks and give them hope for future victories. While the Shank family still has a rough road ahead, at least Jim Shank has some hope for the future. In addition, Wal-Mart may have learned a lesson. Perhaps that lesson will cause the corporate giant to donate a few hundred thousand dollars to the Shanks’ trust fund so that Mrs. Shank can have a better life.
Source: Associated Press and ABC News
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