MS and Trauma – Difficult to Legally Link

Two recent BC Court decisions illustrate the difficulty in proving a legal link between MS and trauma on a balance of probabilities.
In a unanimous decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal pronounced February 20, 2008, the court dismissed the appeal of a Plaintiff’s claim in which the trial judge found that she did not sustain brain injuries in 2 motor vehicle accidents.
The trial judge found that “Ms Roeske has received a diagnosis of probable multiple sclerosis. She has multiple sclerosis of a remitting/relapsing type. All of her neurological signs, including her cognitive deficits, can be explained by multiple sclerosis. The later improvements in her test results in the areas that Dr. Amell found deficient due to brain injury suggest that her remitting/relapsing multiple sclerosis caused those deficits. There is no evidence that traumatic brain injuries can be relapsing/remitting in nature
On appeal, the court found no errors in the trial judgement and concluded that “The judge merely was relating the test result evidence to the diagnosis of probable multiple sclerosis. He concluded in that context the test results did not support a traumatic brain injury. The judge did not conclude Ms. Roeske’s condition was attributable to multiple sclerosis. He concluded she did not establish on the balance of probabilities that her condition was caused by the accidents
In an other interesting decision considering the potential link between trauma and MS, Mr. Justice Cullen disposed of an alleged connection by way of summary trial.
Mr. Justice Cullen was specifically asked “Does the Evidence Prove on a Balance of Probabilities that there is a Causal Relationship between Trauma, including Mild Head Trauma or Whiplash, and the Onset or Exacerbation of MS Symptoms?
Competing medical evidence was called making this a difficult issue to resolve. Mr. Justice Cullen thoroughly reviewed much of the leading scientific evidence with respect to this topic making this decision must-reading for anyone advancing a claim connectin MS and trauma.
In the end, Mr. Justice Cullen dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim concluding that “the question before me of whether trauma, including mild head trauma or whiplash injury, can cause the exacerbation of MS symptoms, was the precise question before the court in Dingley supra. As did the Lord President and the House of Lords in that case, I conclude that the plaintiff has not proved on a balance of probabilities that such a causal connection exists.”
The judgement went on to state that “In finding that the evidence falls short of establishing a causal link on a balance of probabilities, I also rely on the fact that a substantial majority of the relevant scientific community has rejected the notion of a causal connection based on developments in understanding the pathogenesis of the disease, epidemiological studies, reanalysis of previous studies said to support the link, and a weakening of the biological plausibility of the theory through studies such as the Werring Study and the Filippi Study. In the result, I have an advantage over the court in Dingley, supra, in knowing what the future held for the issue in the scientific community in the years following that judgment.”

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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