In 2000, then-Wal-Mart employee Debbie Shank was hit by a semi-truck, leaving her seriously brain-damaged and confined to a wheelchair. Wal-Mart covered her medical expenses until she won a settlement from the trucking company that left her $417,000 after legal fees.
Invoking a little-noticed clause in Shank’s contract that kicked in once she won a settlement with the trucking company, Wal-Mart sued the Shank family to recoup the medical expenses it had spent on her care, all $470,000.
In response, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last week began decrying Wal-Mart’s actions nightly, four times labeling $9-billion corporation one of his “Worst Persons in the World.” Last night, however, Olbermann was able to announce the good news — that Wal Mart yesterday wrote to the Shanks to tell them it would drop its suit:
Occasionally others help us step back and look at a situation in a different way. This is one of those times. … Wal-Mart will not seek any reimbursement for the money already spent on Ms. Shank’s care, and we will work with you to ensure the remaining amounts in the trust can be used for her ongoing care.
Unfortunately, CNN’s Glenn Beck could not attain a similarly enlightened perspective. He condemned Wal-Mart on his radio show today, insisting the corporation had made a “deal with terrorists” and had succumbed to “blackmail”:
Well, what are the principles? The principles are right is right, wrong is wrong. No matter how much I need it, no matter how hard it is for me, no matter how much it sucks, it’s not right. My word is my bond. I made an agreement. I didn’t see it in there. … This is blackmail. And yet Wal-Mart folds. You don’t deal with terrorists? Really? You just did. You just dealt with economic blackmailers. … But then — and I don’t even put it on the family as much as I do on the media. The media, they just — MSNBC, man, they can just make hay with this.
Listen to Beck’s rant:
Earlier in his rant, Beck seems to suggest that the Shanks reneged on Debbie’s contract when it asked Wal-Mart to forgive her medical expenses. However, as legal analyst Jeffery Toobin pointed out on Anderson Cooper 360 last night, the corporation was under no obligation whatsoever to sue the Shanks. It was a discretionary choice:
There is no reason why they should have filed this lawsuit. This was an unnecessary pain inflicted.