When social services worker Mark Lindquist knew the Joplin, MO, tornado was approaching, he jumped into action to protect three developmentally disabled adults in a group home from harm. Now a workers’ comp insurer says it won’t pay for Lindquist’s extensive injuries that have cost him $2.5 million so far.
Mark Lindquist and his co-worker, Ryan Tackett, had just gone through a tornado drill, so they knew what to do. There was no basement or shelter, and the three men with Down syndrome wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to move somewhere else. So Lindquist and Tackett placed mattresses over the men and climbed atop the bedding.
Tackett survived; the three men did not.
Two houses away from the group home, rescuers found Lindquist. At first, they thought he was dead. His body had suffered so many injuries that it swelled to the point that he was unidentifiable. It wasn’t until three days later that his family found him in a hospital.
Every rib in Lindquist’s body had been broken his lungs were punctured; his sternum was broken; his right shoulder was shattered. He was in a coma for seven weeks and suffered a serious fungal infection during that time that killed others hospitalized after the tornado.
Lindquist’s job paid barely more than minimum wage. He couldn’t afford health insurance. He thought his employer’s workers’ comp insurance would pay his medical bills.
Accident Fund Insurance thought otherwise. His claim was denied “based on the fact that there was no greater risk than the general public at the time [he was] involved in the Joplin tornado.”
John Hurn, CEO of Community Support Services, Lindquist’s former employer, said the agency has asked the insurance company to reconsider.
Lindquist could also appeal the decision to the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation. The miracle tornado survivor said he’s still weighing his options.
A spokeswoman for the Division of Workers’ Compensation says of 132 claims filed after the tornado, only 8 were denied by insurance companies.