Amputation workers’ comp case remanded for recalculation

The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed for a woman who alleged she is owed more in partial impairment benefits for an amputation on her hand than she was awarded by the Worker’s Compensation Board.

While working for manufacturing company Foremost Fabricators, Gina Senter’s pinkie finger on her left hand got caught between two rollers on a roller machine. She underwent fingertip and ray amputations following a doctor’s advice to restore function in the finger, leaving her with “100% permanent partial impairment of the left little finger which converts to 10% of the hand.”

No one could agree on the percentage of permanent partial impairment however, with Senter arguing she was entitled to an award for one-third loss of her hand because the amputation “included the removal of the bone along the left side of the left hand clear to the wrist joint.” She sought an award of $65,400 as a result of her injuries but was ultimately given a $12,880 award by a single hearing member of the Hamilton Chairman of Worker’s Compensation Board of Indiana.

The single hearing member concluded that Senter sustained 13% permanent partial impairment of her left hand. The SHM did not apply the doubling provision pursuant to Indiana Code Section 22-3- 3-10 to the portion of Senter’s hand amputation, instead only applying the doubling provision to her finger amputation.

On appeal, Senter argued that both SHM and the Board “acknowledged the partial hand amputation but failed to conclude that an award for such an injury was allowed under the statutes.”

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that the board improperly calculated its award to Senter based on its factual findings. Specifically, it found that while the board has the discretion to fill in the gaps of I.C. Section 22-3-3-10, the statute must still be followed when the language is clear in differentiating between loss of use and loss by separation and the calculation for each, as in Senter’s case.

“While we acknowledge that Senter is not entitled to an award for loss of the entire hand, Appellees’ argument is premised on the fact that no partial award can be given for amputation of the hand. This is too narrow a reading of the Statute,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote. “We decline to find specifically that Senter is entitled to compensation for one-third of her hand; however, the Board should use its discretion to determine the percentage of the hand amputation Senter should be awarded.”

It therefore remanded Gina Senter v. Foremost Fabricators, 19A-EX-1064, with instructions for the board to calculate Senter’s award consistently with its findings.

This article was first published by The Indiana Lawyer.

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