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Partial finger amputation doesn’t constitute loss of whole hand


An Ohio worker is entitled to workers compensation benefits for the loss of part of his hand rather than the entire hand because his fingers weren’t fully amputated, a state appellate court has ruled, upholding a finding by Ohio’s comp commission.

Broc Root had three fingers partially amputated after getting his hand caught in a brake pad while working for RS Resources Inc. in Canton, Ohio, on March 19, 2012, according to court documents.

Within two months Mr. Root filed a motion with the Industrial Commission of Ohio seeking workers comp benefits for total loss of function in his left hand.

A district hearing officer with the commission agreed in part with a doctor’s assessment that the left hand suffered an “impairment” but was “functional.” Mr. Root was awarded workers comp benefits covering the total loss of his left hand for 175 weeks.

The award was based on a portion of Ohio workers comp law that says when two or more of a worker's fingers have been amputated, a loss-of-use award can be increased to equal the loss of the worker's entire hand based on how the injury affects the worker’s employment.

His employer filed an appeal before a staff hearing officer, who vacated the 175-week award, relying on another doctor’s assessment that the loss of permanent function was “premature” and that the worker could improve function with physical therapy, noting that he was able to move his wrist.   

Mr. Root appealed the ruling, saying the partial loss of his three fingers made it impossible for him to return to his former job as a machine operator.

A three-judge panel of Ohio’s 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus on Tuesday ruled that the worker did not lose all use of his left hand and that the previous judgment was sound.

“While relator had clearly suffered a loss of use of his ring and middle fingers, relator failed to present any evidence concerning his ability to use his left hand and how the loss of these two fingers affected his ability to perform the tasks associated with the job he was performing at the time he was injured. Without such evidence, relator failed to meet his burden of proof,” the ruling reads.

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