Mega-retailer Wal-Mart has long been accused of unfair practices with regard to its workers, but recently some Wal-Mart employees in Colorado won a little bit of ground with regard to workers’ compensation claims.
In 2009, some 13,500 employees of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. brought a class-action suit against the company and two other defendants, alleging that the retailer interfered with how workers’ compensation claims were paid for on-the-job accidents. The case, Josephine Gianzero et al. v Wal-Mart Stores Inc. et al, developed from a Colorado Springs Wal-Mart employee’s workers’ comp claim.
The co-defendants in the case were Claims Management Inc., American Home Assurance, and Concentra. Wal-Mart is an Arkansas-based retail chain, Claims Management Inc. is their adjustor, American Home Assurance provides Wal-Mart’s workers’ comp insurance, and Concentra operates medical facilities where many of Wal-Mart’s injured employees received treatment. According to the plaintiffs, officials of the three companies “interfered with and limited the independent judgment of certain medical providers who treated injured workers employed by [Wal-Mart] in Colorado who sustained on-the-job injuries.”
After three years of vigorously defending the case and denying all allegations of wrongdoing, the defendants agreed to a settlement totaling $8 million. $4 million will come from Wal-Mart and Claims Management Inc. Concentra’s insurer, Lexington Insurance, agreed to pay another $4 million toward the settlement. Denver-based U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn approved the settlement last Tuesday. He also ordered four years of injunctive relief requiring Wal-Mart and CMI to provide training for its workers’ comp adjustors.
In addition, Concentra agreed to provide “periodic training to its marketing and sales force in Colorado, regarding the prohibition of dictation of care provisions” outlined in Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws.
Wal-Mart Stores spokesman Randy Hargrove issued a statement saying, “The health, safety and well-being of our associates are important to [Wal-Mart]. If associates are injured at work, we and CMI are committed to making available the best treatment and care, so that they can get better.
“It is up to the doctors to determine the best course of treatment for each person.”
Concentra Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Fogarty also issued a statement. In it, he said, “Concentra remains committed to improving America’s health one patient at a time with proven outcomes for every patient, regardless of their employer or role within a company, compliant with Colorado law.”
The approved settlement will result in checks being cut to all 13,521 plaintiffs. Those treated at Concentra facilities will receive $520 and those treated at other facilities will receive $50. While this amount seems relatively small, it’s very telling that Wal-Mart chose to settle. Here’s hoping that the company will make every effort to care for its injured employees in the future.
If you’re having trouble with an employer who is overlooking you as an injured employee and trying to deny you benefits, you have legal recourse and you should contact our offices. We are experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys, and we’re here to help you.