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Judge overturns RSI verdict

A federal judge throws out a $5.3 million jury verdict against Digital Equipment in a keyboard injury case.

A federal judge has overturned a $5.3 million jury verdict awarded last year against Digital Equipment (DEC) in a landmark repetitive stress injury case.

The U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn, New York, has called for a new trial after Digital's attorneys presented fresh evidence indicating that the plaintiff's wrist injury was not a work-related repetitive stress injury, a company spokesman said.

Digital presented the court with plaintiff Patricia Geressy's medical reports that traced her wrist injury to a neck condition. Geressy, a secretary at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, convinced a jury last year that her injury was cause by repetitive typing on a keyboard made by Digital. The jury concluded that DEC was at fault for not issuing warnings alerting keyboard users of the dangers and awarded Geressy $5.3 million.

The judge also threw out a $302,000 award to co-plaintiff Jill Jackson because the statute of limitations had expired, but upheld a $247,000 award to billing clerk Jeannette Rotolo, Digital said.

A Digital representative said the company applauds the judge's move to overturn the verdict.

"Digital is very pleased that the judge has seen fit to set aside two of the verdicts and we will appeal the third," said Dan Kaferle, a Digital spokesman. "We have maintained and continue to maintain that our keyboards are safe."

The December jury ruling is believed to be the largest ruling ever against a keyboard maker and created nervousness throughout the computer industry, which has been balking at reports that computer usage can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive-stress injuries.