An insurance company that initially refused to pay the medical bills of a man injured in the Joplin tornado while he tried to save three residents of a group home where he worked has now agreed to pay the claim, the company said Monday.
Mark Lindquist was in a coma for nearly two months, broke every rib, lost most of his teeth and suffered other catastrophic injuries in the May 22 tornado. He had placed three middle-aged men with Down syndrome beneath mattresses, then climbed atop one of the mattresses, to try and protect them.
The men died. Lindquist survived but ran up medical bills in excess of $2.5 million. He worked in a job paying barely above minimum wage and couldn't afford medical insurance.
He sought workers' compensation, claiming he was injured on the job. His company's workers' compensation provider, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, denied the 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," according to a letter from a claims adjuster.
But on Monday, a day after an Associated Press story, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America agreed to pay.
"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 worker's compensation benefits," Mike Britt, president of the Lansing, Mich.-based insurance company, said. "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."
Lindquist, 51, did not have a phone listing but his sister, Linda Lindquist Baldwin, said the family still plans to meet with an attorney to consider all options before accepting the payment. But she said the family was overwhelmed by the turnaround.
"What it's going to mean for Mark is long-term help and medical care for him," Baldwin said, adding that Accident Fund has agreed to pay all past and future medical bills related to his injuries. "My only concern is that Mark's cared for. He's younger than I am and will probably outlive me, and I want to make sure he is cared for his entire life."