Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Wal-Mart Hands Its Critics a Spiked Club, Asks, "Please?"
Insurer wants woman's crash settlement:
    Debbie Shank stocked shelves at a Wal-Mart store in Cape Girardeau, Mo., until five years ago, when her minivan was hit by a tractor-trailer. Her Wal-Mart health insurance paid the medical bills. Proceeds from a lawsuit helped finance her care in a nursing home.

    Brain damage forces her to use a wheelchair and limits her upper body movement to one arm and two fingers. It stole her memory and her ability to talk to her husband and three sons.

    "She'll ask about the boys, she'll ask about the cat," said her husband, Jim Shank. "Whenever I'm there, she thinks it must be a mealtime. We don't really hold a conversation."

    Now the Shanks face a new obstacle. Her Wal-Mart health insurance plan wants the lawsuit money to repay its costs.
Unfortunately, some insurance company functionaries lack the imagination for how the general public will perceive a lawsuit against a disabled woman, and how anti-Wal-Mart fanatics will use the incident against Wal-Mart. If those opponents could have their way, they'd make sure that Wal-Mart lived down to their rhetoric and did not provide insurance for its employees (the fact that Wal-Mart medical insurance exists and paid out half a million dollars for this catastrophe, but that Wal-Mart is evil because it doesn't provide insurance for its employees--the paradox in their rhetoric will never surface).

The paper throws in an obligatory response from a spokesperson:
    A Wal-Mart spokesman said the health plan has made no decision on whether to pursue this case; the suit puts a legal foot in the door before the deadline to file it passes. "This is kind of a standard procedure, and it just preserves our options," Marty Hires said.
The SOPs of the byzantine and, let's face it, often-suspect insurance and legal industry don't improve the image of insurance, lawyers, or their clients. I'm sure someone with Wal-Mart could have come up with a better response, but who knows if the papers would publish them, because the current storyline casts Wal-Mart as the villain.

Now that the broken story's broken, any doing-of-the-right-thing by Wal-Mart--such as not actually pursuing the suit or apologizing, will be reported as cynical damage control. If the papers follow up at all.

Yeah, I'm so cynical, I sometimes don't even trust my own blog.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."