Tag Archives: Junk Science

The Difference Between Scientific Evidence And The Scientific Method

Scientific evidence plays a crucial role in virtually all mass torts cases (whether prescription drugs, environmental exposures, or consumer products), and so, when the National Research Council and the Federal Judicial Center published the Third Edition of the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, lawyers took note. Apart from Supreme Court opinions — which these days often raise more questions than they answer, which is partly why Daubert is still the leading case twenty years later — the Manual is likely the primary reference federal judges use to guide them in deciding what scientific evidence they allow into a jury trial. Scientific evidence is ... Continue Reading

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Old Tires and 15-Passenger Vans, Still The NHTSA’s Shame

Once you've been a trial lawyer for long enough, there are some consumer products you just don't look at the same anymore, because you've heard about them too many times from other trial lawyers or because you've sat across a conference table from someone telling you about the worst thing that ever happened to their family. ATVs cause a death or two every day. Gas cans without a flame arrestor or a spill-proof lid severely burn a child under six years old every day or two. Trampolines send 275 kids and teenagers to the emergency room with serious injuries every day. ... Continue Reading

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Courts Lag Behind Science In Recognizing How Regular Tylenol Use Causes Liver Damage

One of the more sobering parts of being a trial lawyer is reviewing intakes of potential cases. We routinely talk with people who have just lost a spouse or child or who have recently suffered an injury that will leave them permanently disabled. Many of these accidents happened in the course of activities we all know to have an element of danger, but many involve doing the same thing a million other people do every day. No one expects that giving their kid Motrin will cause a horrific skin disease or that their tap water might be so polluted that it's ... Continue Reading

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Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center Under Attack Again

[UPDATE II, February 7, 2012: Mike Tremoglie at Legal News Line (which is owned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform) has published two follow-up stories in which I was quoted, one about the issue in general, and one about follow-up data the ICLE published on the location of plaintiffs in Philadelphia mass torts cases.] [UPDATE, December 3, 2011: More than a month after my post, the Wall Street Journal chimed in with an editorial parroting the "study" I discussed below. The WSJ, too, noted that, in medical malpractice trials, "Philadelphia juries find in favor of plaintiffs more often ... Continue Reading

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Where Are All The Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Lawsuits?

[Update: For the first time, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has released a report that finds a connection between fracking and groundwater contamination at a site in Wyoming. Unsurprisingly, natural gas companies have gone on the offensive about it. The report certainly helps strength plaintiffs' claims arising from these types of claims, but they remain on the cutting edge of science, and thus are difficult to prove in court because our court system operates primarily off of long-standing scientific consensus, rather than novel, even if strongly meritorious, theories and evidence. Much will depend on what comes out of the EPA's ... Continue Reading

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NFL Players’ Brain Injury Medical Monitoring Class Action Already In Trouble

In retrospect, it's obvious: battering your brain and sustaining concussions on a regular basis as part of your job can have severe long-term consequences. I remember back when I played football in school that there was already a long-standing debate over the apparent safety of big, heavy helmets with wire face masks. At first blush, it seemed the answer to the broken noses, broken jaws, and facial and head laceration that had long plagued football was to use modern plastic injection-molding techniques and build bigger helmets with bigger face masks. More padding is safer than less padding, right? The helmets, ... Continue Reading

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Junk Science: Court Wrongly Holds Vinyl Chloride Can’t Cause Cancer

  [Update, May 31, 2013: The Pennsylvania Superior Court, reviewing the case on appeal, ordered the trial court to further explain the basis for entering nonsuit against the plaintiffs. It's not a victory, exactly, but it's a step in the right direction, and perhaps a prelude to reversal (or the trial judge reconsidering his opinion).]   Everyone remembers the “just one word” of advice in The Graduate: “plastics.” Most everyone has also heard the term “junk science,” coined as a smear against plaintiff’s experts in environmental contamination cases. The purpose the “junk science” campaign was obvious: huge corporations were finally ... Continue Reading

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Falsehoods About Obstretrical Malpractice & Cerebral Palsy Persist As Smears Against John Edwards

John Edwards' political career is over — and rightly so — but he's still a punching-bag for the "tort reform" crowd. He shouldn't be. Here's an example. Stephen Bainbridge leaves his expertise and reveals himself at least a careless speaker, if not an outright fool. After Eric Johnson at PrawfsBlog discusses teaching a Torts class via John Edwards' Four Trials, Bainbridge criticizes Johnson for failing to note Edwards' "junk science," which Bainbridge 'proves' by block-quoting two spurious conservative articles, one from the Wall Street Journal and the other from the National Review, both decrying Edwards' prosecution of birth trauma cases alleging celebral ... Continue Reading

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‘More Probable Than Not Can’t Be Shown by Probability’

Causation in Tort: General Populations vs. Individual Cases: Abstract: To establish causation, a tort plaintiff must show that it is “more probable than not” that the harm would not have occurred if the defendant had followed the relevant standard of care. Statistical evidence, based on aggregate data, is sometimes introduced to show that the defendant's conduct created a statistically significant increase in the likelihood that the harm would occur. But there is a serious problem with the use of such evidence: It does not establish that in the particular case, the injury was more likely than not to have occurred ... Continue Reading

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