Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent the last year hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

Wal-Mart Sues Brain Damaged Employee As Reward for Giving Her Health Insurance

| Fri Nov. 23, 2007 9:58 AM PST

Just when you think that Wal-Mart had already exhausted every last possible strategy for screwing over its employees, here comes this story in the Wall Street Journal. Deborah Shank, a Wal-Mart employee gets into an accident with a semi and ends up permanently brain-damaged a few years back. Her Wal-Mart health insurance paid her medical bills, but she also sued the trucking company for damages. She wins $700,000, which after legal fees and expenses, nets her about $400,000, which was put in a trust to pay the nursing home she now lives in.

But Wal-Mart gets wind of the settlement and turns around and sues Shank for $470,000, the money its insurance company paid for her care from the accident. Now, the woman is reliant on Medicaid and Social Security and Wal-Mart apparently got a much needed windfall.

Wal-Mart isn't alone in such behavior. Insurance companies seizing lawsuit winnings from catastrophically injured Americans is a common practice that gives lie to the notion that anyone gets rich off a personal injury lawsuit these days, as insurance companies often get first dibs on any judgment or settlement in such cases. But Wal-Mart's cruelty, as always, is extreme in this case. Not only is Shenk profoundly disabled, but while her family was fighting off the company in court, her son was killed while fighting the war in Iraq. Not even bad PR like this, apparently, can eke out a drop of compassion from the retail giant.

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Falwell's FBI File

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 2:16 PM PST

The Washington Post has gotten a copy of the late Jerry Falwell's FBI file. It's mostly filled with threats made against the Moral Majority founder, but it has some humorous moments, including the part where the FBI dispatches investigators to infiltrate Cincinnati's gay bars in search of one of the alleged threat-makers. Read more here.

Fred Thompson's DIY Phone Bank

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 11:20 AM PST

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It's either a sign of severe desperation or a novel campaign innovation, but GOP candidate Fred Thompson has just debuted a do-it-yourself phone bank. "Phone for Fred" allows volunteers to download voters' phone numbers off his website, and encourages them to get the word out about their candidate. Oh, but they should be nice about it and only call in the evening. The campaign seems like a formula for disaster, but hey, at least it's cheap!

Trial Lawyers Still the Democrats' Deep Pockets

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 10:27 AM PST

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Lots of corporate money is making an exodus from the GOP and resurfacing in various Democratic campaign coffers this year. Yet there's still plenty of evidence that the Democratic presidential candidates are going to rely heavily on trial lawyer funding, even with a few of the old reliables either in jail, under indictment or facing other criminal charges.

The latest report comes from Mississippi, where Bill Clinton will headline a fundraiser at the home of Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, trial lawyer extrordinare and, incidentally, Trent Lott's brother-in-law. Scruggs is best known for his role in initiating the tobacco litigation in the 1990s that led to an enormous settlement between the states and the cigarette companies. The litigation also netted Scruggs several billion in legal fees and a Hollywood portrayal in the movie "The Insider."

But Scruggs is in a spot of trouble these days. He's facing criminal contempt of court charges in Alabama for allegedly violating a protective order in a case involving Katrina-related insurance claims. Apparently, though, the charges aren't serious enough to scuttle the Clinton fundraiser. No word yet on whether Scruggs' friend and fellow Mississippi trial lawyer John Grisham will make an appearance, but no doubt he's on the invite list. Last year, Grisham gave the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee nearly $27,000, and the former Mississippi state legislator was active in Democratic politics long before he was a bestselling author....

More Big Burgers for a Buck

| Wed Nov. 21, 2007 8:03 AM PST

1_xldoublewhoppercheese.jpgNews from the fast-food world: Burger King is about to roll out a $1 double cheeseburger. The new promotion is designed to challenge McDonald's rein over the rock-bottom food market. McDonald's has had a $1 double cheeseburger for years now on its "value menu," which according to the Wall Street Journal, accounts for nearly a quarter of its sales, but Burger King's double has sold for twice that much. Experts predict that BK's new burger-for-a-buck campaign will set off a price war. Who knows how low it could go!

This is probably good news for all you beef eaters out there, but it can't be good for the nation's collective waistline. Someday someone will study whether the race to the bottom burger pricing produced a corresponding increase in obese Americans. After all, BK will be making it even easier for people to consume more than 1,000 calories and 67 grams of fat in one sitting, for just a buck. If there was ever a good case to be made for a junk food tax, this might be it.

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