Radiology Expert’s Testimony Admitted Despite Lack of Board Certification

A youth and family services appealed a trial court order that rejected a claim of child abuse. Four experts had testified in this case about the probable cause of a child’s rib fractures.

Wendy Ketner, M.D.

Written by
— Updated on April 25, 2022

Radiology Expert’s Testimony Admitted Despite Lack of Board Certification

Court: Superior Court of Pennsylvania
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: In the Interest of M.M.-A.
Citation: 2017 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 4434

One of the experts was a radiology expert, retained by the parents, who opined on non-abusive causation explanations. The appellant sought to exclude the expert’s testimony because she was not a board-certified pediatric radiologist.

Facts

A youth and family services local county office appealed a trial court order rejecting the claim of child abuse. The trial court order also ordered the bone density and genetic testing of the minor in question. The child was three months old at the time. Her parents had taken the child to a hospital to treat a suspected cold. The hospital staff found that the child had several rib fractures, for which her parents could not provide any explanation. Based on the unexplained injuries, the child and her sister were taken away and placed in protective custody.

Four experts proffered in the case to testify about the probable cause of the fractures. Three of the experts testified that there were medical explanations other than abuse to explain the fractures. However, the fourth expert—retained by the appellant—testified that non-accidental trauma caused the fractures. One of the three witnesses who gave non-abusive causation explanations was a radiology expert witness retained by the parents.

The trial court perused other evidence, including the parenting history and the lack of a history of abuse, in addition to expert testimony. Afterward, the trial court sided with the three experts. Then, the trial court directed further medical examinations to determine if the child suffered from bone deficiency disorders and/or genetic disorders.

The Appellee’s Radiology Expert Witness

The pediatric radiology expert testified that she was certain that rickets caused the child’s injuries. Furthermore, the expert opined that there was no proof of non-accidental trauma. The appellant sought to exclude her testimony on the basis that she was not a board-certified pediatric radiologist. The appellant also argued that the trial court had erred in admitting her testimony. According to the appellant, the expert’s testimony was in violation of the standard set by Frye.

The radiology expert witness testified that she has a medical degree. Additionally, the expert has been accredited by the American Radiology Board since 1977. The expert testified that she engaged in a three-month rotation in pediatric imaging during her residency. The radiology expert witness also reads pediatric radiological scans on a daily basis as part of her work. The expert testified that there was no pediatric radiology fellowship at the time she pursued her residency. However, the expert testified that she had more expertise than someone with a current pediatric radiology fellowship.

Discussion

The court noted that the appellant had not filed a Frye motion at the time of trial. The court also noted that the appellant had not raised that issue during the proceedings. Since the appellant could not bring a new claim during the appeal, the court had to waive that issue.

The court further acknowledged that it was glaringly obvious that the radiology expert had more expertise than was otherwise within the ordinary scope of knowledge, training, experience, or education in pediatric radiology, The court quoted McClain ex rel. Thomas v. Welker in this acknowledgment. As far as the court was concerned, the fact that she did not possess board certification in the discipline was of no importance. Therefore, the court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion to admit the proffered witness as an expert in pediatric radiology.

Ruling

The court denied the motion to exclude the radiology expert witness’ testimony.

Key Takeaways for Experts

One of the first things the opposing counsel will do in order to discredit your testimony is to research your background. As such, it’s important that your experience, background, and education align with the case at hand. In this case, the appellant sought to exclude the expert’s testimony as she was not a board-certified pediatric radiologist. Having the requisite education and certifications will make it harder for the opposing counsel to poke holes in your testimony.

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