Jackson woman who battled Wal-Mart Stores in court dies

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Deborah Shank, the former Walmart employee involved in a lawsuit with the retail chain and the mother of a local soldier killed in Iraq, died Tuesday in Cape Girardeau of natural causes. She was 55.

The Jackson woman became the focus of local and national attention in 2007 after Wal-Mart Stores' employee health insurance plan sued for, and eventually won, a judgment against her in federal court. The ruling stated that money Shank was awarded following a 2000 collision with a tractor-trailer must be used to repay insurance costs for medical bills accumulated after the accident. She received $1 million from a trucking company following the accident.

The wreck left Shank with permanent brain damage, memory loss and physical limitations. Her case prompted Wal-Mart Stores to change its health insurance recovery rules. The company said it would no longer seek reimbursement from Shank and from employees in situations and conditions similar to Shank's.

In 2006, shortly before her struggle with Wal-Mart Stores became publicized, Shank's son Jeremy was killed in combat in Iraq.

Her former husband, Jim Shank, said she was strong, even at the end of her life.

"She hung in and fought until the very end. Now she is with the Lord Jesus Christ, which is where she wanted to be," he said. The Shanks divorced in 2007 to allow for Deborah to have better access to Medicaid and Medicare benefits.

Jim Shank said he was grateful for the support his family received throughout the years.

"I want to thank all of the friends that came forward and helped," he said.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. today at McCombs Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Jackson. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the funeral home, and burial will be in Russell Heights Cemetery in Jackson.

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600

Pertinent address:

Jackson, MO

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