A Federal District Court has upheld the admissibility of the articulated total body (ATB) computer simulation program, which is used primarily to interpolate and extrapolate the results of full-scale tests with anthropomorphic test dummies. In Melberg v. Plains Marketing, L.P., 332 F. Supp. 2d 1253 (D. N.D. 2004) plaintiff sustained a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle collision. Plaintiff retained a biomechanical engineer who utilized the ATB computer simulation program to conclude that the forces sustained by the brain were sufficient to cause brain injury.
Defendant objected to its introduction, asserting that there was virtually no evidence to suggest the ATB program model had been validated for use in simulating the movement of real-life, adult passengers in automobile collisions. While the court had some questions regarding its use, it found that the ATB program was widely accepted as a tool for predicting the severity of automobile collisions on human occupants by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the United States Air Force. The court found that such evidence was reliable and would assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence.
The trial court, however, did bar plaintiff’s expert from utilizing NHTSA frontal crash test videos since they do not depict conditions substantially similar to the conditions involved in the collision. The court ruled that both plaintiff and defendants experts would be allowed to testify concerning the crash test but the court would not allow the test videos involving anthropomorphic dummies to be shown to the jury. The court found that the events depicted in the motion pictures of the dummies was different than the events of the collision. Specifically, the crash tests were frontal collisions with no offset, whereas the collision in this case involved an offset of 30 degrees from the direction of a roadway. The dummies were restrained by the occupant restraint system whereas plaintiff was unbelted and unrestrained. The court also noted there was significant skid marks before the collision which indicated that plaintiff at some point became aware of the truck in his path and reacted to the imminent collision whereas dummies do not react to outside stimuli.