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November 12, 1996

GLORIA FAGANS, et. al., Plaintiff,
UNISYS CORPORATION, successor to Burroughs Corp., Defendant.

JUNE L. GREEN, United States District Court Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Unisys Corporation's ("Unisys") Motion for Summary Judgment. As grounds, Unisys states that the government contractor defense is applicable and serves as a complete defense to all of Plaintiffs' claims. The Court agrees and grants Unisys's motion.


 This cause of action, originally part of a multiparty case brought in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, was severed and transferred to this Court pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 21 and 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) on May 27, 1994.

 The underlying claims in this case involve the so-called "repetitive stress injuries" ("RSI") that allegedly result from long-term, constant use of certain keyboard equipment. Plaintiffs Gloria Fagans and Johnette Cox were employed as letter sorters for the United States Postal Service ("Postal Service"). *fn1" While so employed, each used a device known as the Multi-Positional Letter Sorting Machine ("MPLSM"). Each complains of RSI injury allegedly resulting from use of this equipment.

 Plaintiffs allege that Unisys is liable because the keyboard portion of the MPLSM, which it manufactured, allegedly is defective and Unisys failed to warn of this condition. Each cause of action is grounded in theories of negligence and strict liability. (See Compl.)

 Defendant contends that, as a government contractor, it is not liable to Plaintiffs because it meets the elements of the "government contractor defense" set forth in Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., 487 U.S. 500, 101 L. Ed. 2d 442, 108 S. Ct. 2510 (1988).


 The following are material facts as to which there is no genuine issue or dispute:

 1. In 1956 the Postal Service initiated the design and development of the MPLSM through a National Bureau of Standards contract with Rabinow Engineering Company ("Rabinow"). (Def. Stat. Facts P 2.)

 2. Rabinow designed and built a full-scale pilot model of the MPLSM which was installed in the United States Postal Laboratory in Washington, D.C. for examination, testing and analysis by Postal Service engineers and technicians. (Def. Stat. Facts PP 3 and 68.)

 3. The Postal Service made several modifications to the Rabinow design, including repositioning of the keyboard. Thereafter, the Postal Service awarded a contract to build ten prototypes of the Rabinow MPLSM design to Burroughs in 1958. *fn2" (Def. Stat. Facts PP 5 and 6.)

 4. To perform this contract, the Postal Service provided Burroughs with the Rabinow design drawings and specifications, including those for the keyboard design. (Def. Stat. Facts P 7.)

 5. Under the prototype contract, the fundamental design of the MPLSM did not change from the Rabinow model and the first of the prototypes was delivered to the Postal Service in 1959. (Def. Stat. Facts P 10.)

 6. The Postal Service inspected each MPLSM against inspection criteria developed by the Postal Laboratory and the Postal Service's human factors engineers. The Postal Service subsequently accepted all ten prototypes as conforming in all material respects to the Postal Service's requirements. (Def. Stat. Facts P 11 and 12.)

 7. In 1963, after four years of review and evaluation of the prototypes, including human factors analyses, the Postal Service developed and drafted a comprehensive set of detailed production drawings and specifications for the MPLSM, including the keyboard and speed control specifications. The Postal Service specifications and drawings detailed every aspect of the MPLSM, including tolerances; design and materials for the MPLSM keyboard; shape, tension, triggering pressure, and stroke distance of the keys; key spacing; key actuating pressure; and the range of operating speeds for the MPLSM. (Def. Stat. Facts P 13.)

 8. The detailed production drawings and specifications were used to competitively bid future contracts for the mass production of MPLSMs and in 1964, the Postal Service awarded Burroughs the contract to manufacture 26 MPLSMs pursuant to the Postal Service's "build-to-print" drawings and specifications. (Def. Stat. Facts PP 14 and 15.)

 9. The Postal Service specifications also required numerous safety devices, and expressly limited Burroughs to providing only those safety items contained in the Postal Service specifications and drawings. Only the Postal Service could implement unilateral changes to the MPLSM design. (Def. Stat. Facts P 18 and 20.)

 10. Production commenced with regular inspections by the Postal Service and its on-site representative, the Defense Contract Administrative Service ("DCA"), to ensure conformance with the design specifications. Upon completion, but before shipment, the DCAS certified each ...

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