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Products Liability, Toxic Tort and Mass Tort

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Exoneration Obtained in Pro Bono Matter

September 13, 2023

Riker Danzig was pleased to assist a pro bono client in connection with obtaining the exoneration of the defendant in a case alleging abusive head trauma (also known as Shaken Baby Syndrome) of his infant son.

Nakul Y. Shah, an associate in the Firm’s Products Liability, Toxic Tort, and Mass Tort Group, represented The Innocence Project and the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences, as pro bono amicus counsel, in the appeal. Our client filed an amicus brief opposing the State’s effort to overturn the trial court’s decision to bar the opinion of the State’s expert and dismiss the indictment against the defendant.  The trial court had based its decision to exclude the evidence after determining that it was inadmissible under the Frye standard.

Nakul developed the arguments in the brief and argued the appeal.  The case against the defendant was based solely on the expert testimony of the State’s expert who concluded that the injuries sustained by the infant could only be explained by abusive head trauma.

The Appellate Division issued a 64-page published decision on September 13, 2023.  In the landmark decision, the Court held that the State’s evidence of abusive head trauma was inadmissible because although such a diagnosis had support in the pediatric medical community, it lacked support from a biomechanical perspective and therefore lacked sufficient scientific reliability to be admissible.  The Court reached the decision despite earlier judicial decisions that had accepted the admissibility of abusive head trauma diagnoses without factual corroborative evidence.  The Court found that more recent scientific evidence showed that such a diagnosis lacked the scientific foundational basis required for admissibility.

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