Earlier this year, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was upheld as admissible evidence by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania as a means of confirming a diagnosis of a traumatic brain injury.
The Plaintiff was injured when an employee of Defendant Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company threw a 50-pound tire from the second floor of a tire repair shop, and it landed on the Plaintiff’s head and neck.
In seeking to preclude the opinion and testimony of Dr. Benson, Defendant Goodyear argued that DTI had not been accepted for use in the District and should not be presented to a jury. The Defendant also requested a Daubert hearing, should the court deny its application.
The Plaintiff was evaluated by Randall Benson, M.D. a functional neuroimaging expert with vast expertise using widely accepted advanced MRI techniques to assess diffuse axonal injury in traumatically brain injured patients.
Dr. Benson is board certified in psychiatry and neurology and trained in behavioral neurology and functional imaging. He has evaluated and treated hundreds of patients with head trauma and has been engaged in brain imaging research, using advanced MRI methods for 25 years.
What is Diffusion Tensor Imaging?
Diffusion Tensor Imaging (“DTI”) examines the microstructure of the white matter of the brain, allowing for the detection of microscopic pathology or abnormality of the white matter. DTI is an FDA-approved, peer-reviewed and approved, commercially marketed and widely available MRI method, which has been in clinical use for many years.
Brain injury is classified pathologically as one of two types, either focal or diffuse. Diffuse injury implies scattered damage to the brain substance and particularly the white matter, which is comprised of axon fibers connecting neurons. White matter of the brain is comprised of axons, which are long processes extending from nerve cells, which constitute the brain’s grey matter. Axons are organized into thick tubular tracts, which extend from one brain region to another, analogous to electrical cables.
Diffuse injury to the axons (“DAI”) is the hallmark pathology in closed head injury and is not visible on conventional MRI imaging in less severe cases. Diffuse axonal injury results from acceleration or deceleration of the head (skull), which causes deformations (stretch and strain) of the brain substance leading to shear injury of the white matter fibers.
Reliable, generally accepted, and admissible
DTI is a more sensitive technology that can reveal abnormalities that are not visible on standard MRIs. Comparing TBI images against a set of non-TBI images has been demonstrated to be a sensitive, reliable and objective means of distinguishing normal from TBI. DTI has been held to be reliable, generally accepted within the medical community, and admissible in all the federal district courts and virtually every state court which have decided the issue.
The Plaintiff presented overwhelming judicial support for the admission of DTI and that DTI has been well accepted in the medical and scientific community by numerous federal district courts and decisions. In addition, the Plaintiff noted that DTI has been the subject of over 20,000 peer reviewed articles, of which over 1,000 concerned both DTI and TBI. Further, DTI analysis has been tested and approved for use by the United States FDA and the United States Department of Defense. DTI is also employed in numerous hospitals across the country and guidelines for the operation and interpretation of DTI are published by the American Society of Functional Neuroradiology, a specialty society of the American Society of Neuroradiology.
Ultimately, the Court rejected Goodyear’s motion on the basis that the cases cited were “outliers in the vast array of cases cited by [Plaintiff] to the contrary.” The Court also rejected Goodyear’s request for a Daubert hearing.
The case is: Amidon v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Civil No. 1:18-CV-02138 (U.S.D.C. M.D. Pa. 9/3/2021).
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