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PITTS v. NORTHERN TELECOM

October 29, 1998

CHRYSTAL LYNN PITTS
v.
NORTHERN TELECOM, INC. NORTHERN TELECOM, LTD., HONEYWELL, INC., KEY TRONIC CORP., APERTUS TECHNOLOGIES, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WALDMAN

MEMORANDUM

 WALDMAN, J.

 October 29, 1998

 I. Background

 Presently before the court are the motions of defendants Northern Telecom, Inc. (NTI), Apertus Technologies, Inc. and Key Tronic Corp. for summary judgment in this repetitive-stress injury case. Plaintiff alleges that she developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome from using the computer keyboards provided to her during her employment as a directory assistance operator at Bell Atlantic.

 Plaintiff filed this action in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. She asserts against each defendant strict liability and negligence claims. She also asserts claims for breach of unspecified express warranties and for breach of implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. Defendants removed the action to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

 II. Legal Standard

 In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); Arnold Pontiac-GMC, Inc. v. General Motors Corp., 786 F.2d 564, 568 (3d Cir. 1986). Only facts that may affect the outcome of a case are "material." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. All reasonable inferences from the record must be drawn in favor of the non-movant. See id. at 256.

 Although the movant has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the non-movant must then establish the existence of each element on which it bears the burden of proof. J.F. Feeser, Inc. v. Serv-A-Portion, Inc., 909 F.2d 1524, 1531 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 921 (1991). The non-moving party may not rest on his pleadings, but must come forward with evidence from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in his favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989); Woods v. Bentsen, 889 F. Supp. 179, 184 (E.D. Pa. 1995).

 III. Facts

 The pertinent facts as uncontroverted or taken in a light most favorable to plaintiff are as follow.

 Plaintiff began working for Bell Atlantic in 1988. Between 1988 and 1990, she used a keyboard manufactured and sold by defendant Apertus. Between 1990 and June 1994, she used keyboards manufactured and sold by defendant NTI. At some time during this period, defendant Key Tronic provided keyboards to IBM which it in turn provided to NTI.

 Plaintiff began to suffer from pain in her hands and wrists shortly after she began working in 1988. She initially thought this was simply the result of becoming acclimated to a job requiring constant typing, however, the pain worsened over time. Plaintiff thought that her ailments were the result of pregnancy-induced edema. She states that she had previously been under the impression that carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by pregnancy or repetitive motion and did not believe that "repetitive motion" included working in front of a computer.

 Clarence Martin, M.D. examined plaintiff on February 12, 1992. While in retrospect he believes plaintiff might have been suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome on that date, he did not then diagnose her with that condition. A Bell Atlantic company physician diagnosed plaintiff on July 14, 1993 as having carpal tunnel syndrome. Plaintiff ...


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