An assessment of the legal issues of causation and admissibility of scientific evidence in toxic torts

Haruna, Fatima (2008) An assessment of the legal issues of causation and admissibility of scientific evidence in toxic torts. [Dissertation]

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This dissertation examines the legal conundrums of proving causation in toxic injury cases with main focus on the issues of admissibility of scientific evidence to demonstrate causal connection.

The human race is facing environment contaminated with toxic chemicals, and of types and varieties unknown in the Victorian times, causing many illnesses such as lung cancer, brain damage, skin disorders and many respiratory diseases. However, over the years the considerable frequency and ammount of risks relating to our overly contaminated environment has lead to a rise in legal actions for injuries caused by the toxic substances.

For many centuries, the tort system has compensated damages to personhood and property using tort causes of action which includes nuisance, negligence, breach of statutory duty and strict liability.

However, the burden of proof any tort injury and in toxic injuries is not only difficult and contoversial but overwhelming to demonstrate. For toxic torts, it departs away from the standard approach of proving causation where the burden of proof is straight forward. This is because toxic injuries present features such as latency effects before manifestation of injury but which causes obstruction in the assessment of toxicity risks.This is turn proves a big hurdle for victims of tort injuries to overcome. And for such reasons scientific expert evidence as a method is admitted to enable decision makers to better understand preseted evidence in order to arrive at just and fair judgements. Though in the US positive steps of avoiding misleading, unreliable and prejudicial expert evidence seems to be a highly complex area to deal with when scientific evidence does not neatly fall into the reliable or unreliable category, thus causing more confusion of providing causal connection.

This study therefore aims to reassess, stress and analyse the issues of proving toxic tort causation in UK and in the use of scientific expert evidence paying particular attention to the US. In particular it explores the concept of admissibility of scientific expert testimony and reemphasises the evolving issues of demanding standards of evidence and requirements for scientific certainty. The report discusses case law trends showing the pressing need for accuracy in scientific evidence and the impact it has on judicial proceedings.

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