Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hoping Wal-Mart does the "right" thing

I came across this horrific story on CNN earlier today:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/03/25/walmart.insurance.battle/index.html

I, as I am sure anyone who reads the article, initially felt utterly appalled at how Wal-Mart is choosing to proceed with this case. With so much pain and agony that this family has gone through, how could Wal-Mart choose to respond in this manner? It is widely known that one must become completely literate in contracts that require signature and authorization, including such documents as health plans that truly affect one's well-being. But many employees skim over such documents without ever really reading the fine prints on those contracts.

Like many others before, the Shanks fell into the trap of another corporate giant's fine print health plan policy stating that Wal-Mart has the right to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects damages in a lawsuit. This policy seems like a fair compromise for the employer-employee relationship. However, in the Shanks situation, many could argue that Wal-Mart should deem the situation as an exception to the policy. But is that fair? Should the Shanks be considered an exception to the Wal-Mart policy? Is this a matter of ethics or legality?

Initially I became truly angry with the corporate giant ability Wal-Mart is allowed to exercise. A family who has given so much is receiving almost nothing in return. In fact, this family in some ways is being punished. Now maybe I'm being too sentimental here. However, on the other hand, maybe the Shanks have been dealt some unfortunate cards and should just somehow learn deal with them. And if so, Wal-Mart is a business that can not and should not have to try to fix and accommodate their employees' unfortunate occurrences in life.

4 Comments:

Blogger wtravis said...

I think it is terrible what Wal-Mart would do that to a family that has been traumatized by so much. I do understand there wanting to treat all circumstances equally because from what we've learned when you treat one case differently than another you can run into even more problems in itself.

I would like to add that the Shanks going to the media (I'm not sure if they actually went to CNN to get this type of coverage) to get the public's attention on the issue is a great way of handling the situation. When a wrong needs to be fixed especially when the wrong was done by such a giant as Wal-Mart the only real way to fix it is with the public's help. There can be a public outcry against this tragic occurance and then maybe Wal-Mart will answer some questions and give the money back to the Shanks who actually need it

5:36 AM  
Blogger Abbey Stemler said...

I have never been much of a Wal-Mart fan. In my mind it is almost the epitome of a socially irresponsible corporation, because of its pricing methods, attempts to foist healthcare costs on communities, and damage to local economies, etc.

Debbie Shank’s story reinforces my image of Wal-Mart. However, what is most unsettling about her story, to me, is the fact that Wal-Mart had lawyers pursued this case at all. As a future law student I could not imagine being a part of such an aggressive council fighting against a practically defenseless woman. Yes, Wal-Mart had a written policy, and it was within its legal rights to recuperate Shrank’s remuneration—but should it have???

This topic is a perfect example of how as future professionals, we might be faced with a situations in where we have a conflict of duties—i.e. our duty as an employee, our duty as a parent, our duty as a citizen, etc. The lawyers in this case most likely (unless they were heartless) experienced a severe conflict over taking the money from Shrank. If faced with a similar situation what would you do? Would you refuse to pursue the case and risk losing your job, or would you do what you had to? Personally, I hope I am never in a situation such as this, but it makes you wonder—if what I am being told to do is legal and the costs for not doing it are high, should I do it?

7:15 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Wal-Mart does $90 billion in sales last year and they want $200,000 from the Shank family after her accident and the death of her son. I understand that she signed this policy, and I'm sure when she signed it, she didn't think this would happen. I wonder though, if she knew the language of what she was signing though.

Think about it. When we are signing contracts and making deals, do we really read all of the fine print that goes along with it? Or do we just trust what we are signing is as good as what is promised to us? Do many of us ask a question when we don’t understand what was written on the contract? Maybe as students studying law we might, but the other 97% of Americans without a little background in the legal system have no clue.

It's really upsets me that corporations, like Wal-Mart are that hungry for money to do this to families like the Shanks. It just proves once again that money is more important than compassion for those in need in America.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Grohovsky said...

First, I want to echo everyone on stating how terrible and unfortunate a situation this is and how awful I feel for the Shank family.

However, I have a different view on the situation than the others who have commented. This situation is absolutely one of ethics and not legality. Legally, Wal-Mart does have every right to reclaim their money and in my opinion should. Wal-Mart has thousands of employees and to be equal and fair to all parties, they need to follow their policies. There may be several exceptions that arise with their employees and policies and how can they decide what exceptions should be allowed and which should not. You get into a very grey area when you deviate from the policies set in place and it could start a slippery slope of employees asking for exceptions for all different reasons.

I do think that Wal-Mart can help the family in other ways. Wal-Mart donates to many different charities and needy families so perhaps Wal-Mart could choose the Shank family to be one of the charitable recipients and in that way can help and support them. This appears to be a win win situation; the Shank family gets the help they need and Wal-Mart is able to be socially responsible while still following their policies.

7:35 PM  

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