A former call centre operator has launched legal action claiming he has lost the use of his elbows from years of working at a computer. Generic picture
A former call centre operator has launched legal action claiming he has lost the use of his elbows from years of working at a computer. Generic picture

Man sues over elbow injuries from excessive computer work

A FORMER call centre operator has launched legal action claiming he has lost the use of his elbows from years of working at a computer.

Stephen O'Brien, 61, is suing car hire company Hertz alleging 14 years in its call centre left his elbows in tatters, blaming debilitating injuries on excessive work with a keyboard and computer mouse.

Doctors say he now struggles with simple tasks including dressing, cooking, gardening, vacuuming and writing.

"Any activity that entails hand use for an extended period requires rest breaks and even with those breaks, he still suffers pain secondary to hand use," one doctor testified.

"Also his adjustment disorder causes him not to enjoy his everyday pursuits like he did pre-injury and causes him to be lethargic due to poor sleep … and more socially reclusive, avoiding social interaction and pursuing his hobbies.

"This also has had an effect on his marriage."

Mr O'Brien started seeking treatment for pain in his ­elbows in 2012, 13 years after starting work with Hertz.

He said his duties included booking rental vehicles, taking up to 100 calls a day and repeated data entry. He was also required to access heavy folders from a shelf above head height up to 50 times a day.

Doctors diagnosed rest from work, prescribed anti-­inflammatories and referred him to a physiotherapist.

He was cleared to return to work, but the pain returned.

He has battled for a cure for the debilitating pain since then but doctors now consider him permanently disabled.

"I miss the pride that work brings. When I was at Hertz, I enjoyed helping the customers and was always keen to improve my benchmark/feedback scores," he wrote in an affidavit. "I also miss the company of my colleagues. I enjoyed having chats over morning tea or a laugh at a funny customer request - it's lonely doing nothing."

Mr O'Brien said he lost his job at Hertz after doctors failed to give him a full clearance to return to the job. He has since unsuccessfully applied for more than a dozen jobs.

"I have tried to find work as I hope I refuse to accept that I am ready for the employment scrapheap," he said.

County Court judge David Brookes this month granted Mr O'Brien leave to issue proceedings for pain and suffering damages.

"The plaintiff, in my view, was honest and straightforward under cross-examination and I accept that he pursued all available efforts available to him to return to work with restrictions," he said.