The Ohio Court of Appeals recently determined that a worker who had several fingers partially amputated could not receive benefits for the loss of his whole hand. Instead they agreed he was entitled to benefits for loss of part of his hand. Their reasoning was that his fingers had not been fully amputated, only partially, so he lost the use of part of his hand.
Broc Root worked for RS Means Inc. in Canton, Ohio. He caught his hand in a brake pad on March 19, 2012 and had his left middle and ring fingers partially amputated, as well as his left pinkie finger which was amputated at the distal phalanx (fingertip).
He filed for total loss of the use of his left hand with the Industrial Commission of Ohio, which was granted for 175 months by a district hearing officer. Ohio workers’ comp regulation states that an employee’s award can be increased to the equivalent of a total loss of hand when two or more fingers have been amputated and if the injury greatly impacts the worker’s employment. After his employer appealed on the grounds that such an award was “premature” and he could still improve his function, that award was overturned. He argued that he could no longer work as a machine operator because of this injury and should receive a greater award. He did not have medical reports to back up this claim.
An independent medical evaluation by Dr. Robert Kleinman found that though he suffered some nerve damage in his left hand and has damage to three fingers, his thumb and index fingers were still functional and he could pick items up with his hand using those fingers. His claim was only three months old and Dr. Kleinman’s opinion was that he had not yet reached maximum medical improvement and might benefit from therapy to regain some function in his hand, he had not suffered a total permanent loss of his hand. The injured worker did not successfully satisfy his burden of proof according to the Court of Appeals.