Vivian Thorp was 28 years old when she ripped a ligament in her knee lifting heavy freight at Walmart in Vallejo, California. Until then, she’d liked her job and was good at it. “I was always strong and agile, and I had the skills for a physical job,” she says. “I helped set up that store.” But when the injury laid her up, she found herself adrift in the job market. “I wasn’t skilled for anything else other than waitressing or shipping and receiving,” she says. “I got really deeply depressed.”
Her life began to unravel. A bank repossessed the rental she was living in. The father of her baby daughter Jasmine, born in 1994, left Thorp and returned to England. In 1997, four years after the accident, Walmart finally paid her $20,000 for medical expenses and lost income, but more than half of it went to pay back workers’ compensation.