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Brain damaged ex-worker must pay $470,000 to Wal-Mart

The family of a woman must reimburse Wal-Mart for nearly a half-million dollars in medical expenses now that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review her case. The court recently let a ruling by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis requiring Debbie Shank to pay nearly $470,000 to Wal-Mart.

This appeal was the last legal recourse for the family of 52 year-old Shank who was critically injured in a car accident eight years ago. She suffered a brain injury, leaving her with no memory and very little ability to move or communicate. She has lived in a nursing home since being released from the hospital.

Shank’s medical bills were covered by a health insurance program at Wal-Mart where Shank worked nights stocking shelves. Her family later settled a personal injury lawsuit with the trucking company whose driver was involved in the accident. After fees and expenses, $417,477 was put in a trust for Shank’s care. That settlement money plus $51,739 will have to pay out of pocket to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s insurance required full repayment of medical expenses if she received money from a personal injury lawsuit. Wal-Mart sued the family of the brain injured victim and stated that it sued “out of fairness to everyone who contributes” to the plan.

This tragic story is a prime example as to why the insurance and health care industries in the United States are in serious need of reform. Wal-Mart is an extremely wealthy business making its employees contribute for their own health care and now apparently sues to get money back from the most vulnerable victims.

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