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FINLEY v. NCR CORP.

January 22, 1996

OLGA FINLEY and ROBERT FINLEY, Plaintiffs,
v.
NCR CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RODRIGUEZ

 This matter is before the court on the motion of defendant NCR Corporation for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b). For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant defendant's motion for summary judgment.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiffs, Olga Finley and her husband, Robert Finley, filed this product liability action against defendant NCR Corporation ("NCR"), among others, alleging that defendant designed, manufactured, or supplied a model 7100 keyboard that caused Olga Finley, an accounts payable manager, to develop carpal tunnel syndrome ("CTS"). Robert Finley states a claim for loss of consortium.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Summary Judgment Standard

 The entry of summary judgment is appropriate only when "there is no genuine issue of material fact" and "the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Whether a fact is indeed "material" is determined by the controlling substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). If a disputed fact exists that under the controlling substantive law might affect the outcome of the suit, the entry of summary judgment is precluded. Id.

 The moving party bears the responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In addition, this party must identify those portions of the pleadings, discovery papers and affidavits (if any) which demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Id. Once the moving party has satisfied these requirements, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to present affirmative evidence that a material fact is genuine. If the evidence is such that "a reasonable jury might return a verdict in his favor," summary judgment will not be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 257.

 B. Product Liability Claim

 Defendant NCR asks this court to grant summary judgment in its favor on two grounds: first, the cause of Olga Finley's injuries has not been clearly established by medical evidence; and second, NCR's failure to warn was not a proximate cause of Olga Finley's injuries. NCR claims that its computer keyboard is not defectively designed and does not require a warning.

 Under New Jersey law, a plaintiff in a strict-liability tort action must prove that the defendant's product was defective. *fn1" Feldman v. Lederle Laboratories, 97 N.J. 429, 433, 479 A.2d 374, 376 (1984). The defect may take one of three forms: a manufacturing flaw, a design defect, or an inadequate warning. Id. In this case, plaintiffs' allegations rely on the latter two forms and plaintiffs proffer expert testimony to advance their arguments. NCR, on the other hand, contends that plaintiffs' experts cannot supply sufficient evidence to establish that NCR's keyboard caused Olga Finley to contract CTS. Because "expert testimony is crucial on the issues of causation and alternative design," a Daubert analysis is necessary. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1993).

 In Daubert, the United States Supreme Court stated that a trial judge must ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is both reliable and relevant. Id. at , 113 S. Ct. at 2795. The Court further stated that the primary locus of this obligation is Federal Rule of Evidence 702. This rule provides that:

 
. . . if scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, ...

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