A New York jury has decided against a police force switchboard operator who sued IBM for $11 million, claiming she had received hand and wrist injuries from using one of the supplier's keyboards.
A six-strong jury in the New York State Supreme Court voted five-to-one in favour of IBM on Wednesday, judging that its keyboard "wasn't a substantial factor" in the carpal-tunnel syndrome suffered by Flay Ames, who operated an emergency 911 phone line for the New York Police Department.
Carpal tunnel syndrome was the type of repetitive strain injury at the centre of last week's landmark $6 million award against Digital Equipment, which was found guilty of not warning customers about the dangers of muscle injury from using keyboards.
The verdict this week was IBM's sixth successful defence in the six RSI-related cases against it that have come to court to date. But there are plenty more where those came from - of 2,000 RSI cases pending against keyboard suppliers, some 600 are against IBM. An IBM legal representative said the company has no intention of settling any of these lawsuits.
Meanwhile, despite the guilty verdict last week, a spokesman for Digital said the company has no intention of following the example of other suppliers, such as Compaq, by putting warning stickers on its keyboard because "The products are safe".
But the Digital case looks set to have wider ramifications with a renewed commitment from the Clinton administration to legislate on RSI prevention regulations. Robert Reich, Secretary for Labor, called for the cooperation of US businesses in the coming months to speed up the process.
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