Following a significant accident in which claimant injured his hand, shoulder and neck when a sealing clamp of a machine closed on his hand, Allen Conell sought payment for an active and passive prosthetic device. The commissioner denied the passive prosthetic hand, but the Court of Appeals, following the decision of the district court, reversed the decision of the agency. Nestle USA v. Conell, No. 17-0267 (Iowa App. Feb. 7, 2018).
Claimant had originally been awarded a passive prosthetic hand following the injury, but the commissioner reversed this award finding that providing the passive prosthetic hand in addition to an active prosthetic hand violated the language of section 85.27(1), which only requires that "one set of permanent prosthetic devices" be provided. The commissioner held that claimant was only entitled to one prosthetic device per entitlement and that having an active and passive device violated this requirement. The district court reversed, finding that the passive hand was an extension of Conell's prosthetic, thus rendering this a single device. The Court of Appeal affirmed, noting that the passive prosthetic hand was merely an extension of the mechanical hand, citing Quaker Oats v. Ciha (home modifications are extension of wheelchair) and Manpower Temp. Servs. v. Sioson (van is extension of wheelchair). The court found that the mechanical prosthetic hand was a reasonable and necessary device but only for a fraction of the day. The court affirmed the district court's award of the passive prosthetic.
The employer raised issues about causation for the neck injury, permanency for mental health issues and claimant's award of permanent total disability benefits. All of these issues were decided on the basis of substantial evidence.
The final issue before the court was a rate issue. Claimant had routinely worked more than 40 hours in each week preceding the injury. Claimant sough to eliminate two 44 hour weeks from the rate calculation. In rejecting this argument, the court concluded that the commissioner's finding that all of the weeks should be included was not illogical, irrational or whole unjustifiable.