Imagine this. Through no fault of your own, an accident leaves you brain damaged, unable to work and care for your children. Your employer’s health plan picks up the initial costs while you fight for your life in the hospital, and later, in court with an insurance company. Seemingly, your luck changes, and you win a settlement to be placed in a trust fund for future health care expenses.

And then years later, your employer demands the entire settlement, plus interest.

This exact scenario happened to a Jackson, MO woman. Her employer was everyone’s favorite multibillion-dollar corporation, Wal-Mart. That’s right, the world’s largest retailer sued a brain-damaged woman for her medical expenses right here in Missouri. And worst of all, Wal-Mart won, because it’s completely legal.

Join me below the flip for more.

Deborah Shank was a 52 year old woman working at Wal-Mart as a stocker. In the spring of 2000, she was hit by a semi-trailer while checking out some local yard sales. She drifted in and out of a coma for weeks, while Wal-Mart’s health plan (on which Mrs. Shank paid her premiums, mind you) picked up the tab. After two years, much of it rotating in and out of the hospital for treatments and rehab, she sued the trucking company and received a settlement. Three years later, Wal-Mart sued her for $470,000, $52,500 more than what Mrs. Shank received in a trust fund for her care. Under a clause in her health plan, Wal-Mart is entitled to money received in a settlement, plus interest. Not just a part of it, all of it, regardless of how destitute it might leave her family.

Now Mrs. Shank relies on Medicare and Medicaid to pay for her care in a nursing home. Her husband divorced her, because as a single woman she might be eligible for a little more money. What’s worse, one of her sons was killed in Iraq last year. He was 18. A small consolation might be that due to memory loss caused by the accident, Mrs. Shank doesn’t always remember that he’s dead.

I know you’re enraged right now (if you have a beating heart,) but there’s two things you can actually do to help right this minute. The first is easy: Donate via WalMart Watch to help pay Deborah Shank’s medical bills. Any amount you can give will help, even if it’s just $20.

The second way you can help is even easier. At the bottom of this story is a link to e-mail this story to as many of your friends as you can rile up about this. Wal-Mart isn’t going to do the right thing in this case, or in future cases, unless they’re shamed into it.

Check back later for BlueGirl’s report on how this kind of skulduggery is actually legal.