Shares of Digital Equipment Corp. stock dropped slightly today at news that the company was ordered in federal court to pay $6 million to three women who sued over repetitive stress injuries they blamed on their Digital keyboards.
The verdict, handed down last week in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., and made public today, marks the first time a hardware maker has been held liable for users' carpal tunnel syndrome injuries. IBM and Compaq Computer Corp. have prevailed in similar lawsuits in the past.
Digital, the fourth-largest computer maker in the United States, vowed to appeal the awards of $5.4 million to a Port Authority of New York worker, $306,000 to a law office secretary and $278,000 to a hospital billing clerk. The Maynard, Mass., company said in a statement that no scientific link exists between computer keyboards and the type of injuries the plaintiffs alleged in the suit.
Repetitive stress disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome account for about a third of the $60 billion in workers' compensation payments U.S. companies distribute each year, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Shares of Digital stock were down 87 cents, to $40.50, in late-afternoon trading today.