JOPLIN, Mo. —
Efforts for Mark Lindquist and his family paid off on Monday.
After months of battling for her brother, Linda Lindquist Baldwin got the telephone call for which they had been hoping.
“It was the same insurance adjuster who had called me and told me that they had denied Mark’s claim for workers’ compensation,’’ said Baldwin. “She said her manager had called her and told her to open the case back up and pay it.
“I asked her why they decided to change their mind. She told me: ‘I don’t know why they changed their mind. My manager said it was a top priority and to pay it.’ She said they would pay it and they were anxious to do so.
“We are thrilled. Our prayers have been answered.’’
When the May 22 tornado struck, Lindquist was working at a group home at 2302 Iowa Ave. in Joplin. He and a co-worker tried to save three residents of the home by throwing mattresses on top of them and then climbing on top of the mattresses to hold them down. The three residents, who had Down syndrome, died.
Lindquist, who had no medical insurance, was in a coma for nearly two months after the tornado. All of his ribs were broken. He lost the bone structure in his right shoulder. He also fell ill to a fungal infection that killed five tornado victims.
Lindquist, who was released earlier this month from the Missouri Rehabilitation Center at Mount Vernon, racked up more than $2.5 million in medical bills after months of treatment. Those bills are still mounting.
Lindquist, 51, was employed by Community Support Services, of Joplin, which has workers’ compensation coverage with the Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, of Lansing, Mich. Community Support Services sought workers’ compensation for Lindquist, noting he was injured on the job.
The insurance company denied the initial claim in June “based on the fact that there was no greater risk than the general public at the time you were involved in the Joplin tornado.”
Upon hearing the news on Monday that Lindquist’s medical bills would be paid, Jhan Hurn, director of Community Support Services, said, “Fantastic! That is great news. We made it very clear to our insurance company that he was on the job, that he was following the employee directives during an emergency procedure, and that he was putting the safety of these individuals first.’’
Hurn said his office had received calls from people who misunderstood what had happened. The callers, he said, thought that Community Support Services was fighting Lindquist’s claim.
“It was a justified claim — no two ways about it,” Hurn said. “We wanted him to have it. This is what it is for.’’
Mike Britt, president of the insurance company, in a statement released Monday, said, “Accident Fund Insurance Company of America is governed by state law and our initial decision in the Mark Lindquist case was based upon the laws in Missouri. Mr. Lindquist was injured during the tornado that happened this past summer in Joplin, Missouri.
“Missouri’s workers’ compensation laws limit recovery for injuries received during a tornado to situations where the employee was not subjected to a greater harm than that of the general public.
“Upon further review of the case, and receiving additional information on the facts involved in this situation, Accident Fund believes the appropriate decision is to honor Mr. Mark Lindquist’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits. We are committed to working with Mr. Lindquist to ensure he receives all the benefits to which he is entitled and helping him to recover from his injuries.”
‘REALLY, REALLY HAPPY’
Baldwin said she called her brother, who is recovering at the home of a brother in McDonald County, to give him the news.
“He said he was really, really happy — not just for himself but for the doctors who saved him,” she said. “He is very grateful. We are happy we have avoided a legal battle. None of us wanted to do that.”
Still, the family plans to meet with an attorney to make sure Lindquist gets everything to which he is entitled, she said. The Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys has offered free legal advice to the family.
“Mark’s younger than I am and probably will outlive me,” Baldwin said. “When I am not here to fight for him, I want provisions for him to make sure he is cared for his entire life.”
Baldwin said well-wishers across the country have offered donations and prayers.
“We can’t thank them enough,’’ she said.
In addition to his stay at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center at Mount Vernon, Mark Lindquist was treated at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin and at the University of Missouri Medical Center in Columbia.