HASTINGS, Minn. — Apple Computer Inc. has settled its first court battle over injuries allegedly suffered by a computer keyboard user for an undisclosed amount. It did so because of a legal technicality and said it will continue to defend itself in other cases.
The company blamed its outside law firm, which failed to turn over all court-ordered documents until last week. As a result, Apple faced a possible default judgment or mistrial plus related costs. It said the law firm, Saperston & Day of Buffalo, N.Y., will pay the entire cost of the settlement.
Attorneys for 30-year-old Nancy Urbanski, who claimed she developed repetitive strain injury after using the company's keyboard, said they were pleased.
"We were quite happy with the amount," said Stan Levy of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg, a New York law firm handling the case and many similar ones nationwide. He said agreement details have been sealed by the court.
Apple's co-defendant in the case, International Business Machines Corp., said it has no plans to settle.
"The fact that Apple has decided to settle has no impact on the merits of IBM's case," IBM spokesman Tom Beermann said. "There is no scientific evidence linking computer keyboards to injury."
Apple's decision came as the closely watched trial entered its eighth and probably final week in Dakota County Circuit Court in Hastings, about 20 miles south of Minneapolis. Neither Apple nor IBM has gone to court before on charges that its keyboards are linked to wrist- and hand-related injuries.
Last week, Apple delivered to the judge and plaintiffs about 200 to 300 previously unreleased confidential documents from company engineers and ergonomics specialists.
"It is unfortunate that these discovery errors necessitated settlement," said Michael Assad, Apple's senior counsel. He said the company will continue to "vigorously" defend itself against other RSI lawsuits.
Those close to the case said the documents would have prompted Judge Richard Spicer to review his Feb. 7 decision that Apple would not have to face punitive damages in the case while IBM would.
In his ruling, Spicer cited internal IBM documents introduced in the case, saying there was no equivalent for Apple. He also cited Apple's decision to design and sell an alternative keyboard.