A Fitting Vision of Science for the Courtroom
3 Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy 1 (2013)
39 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2012 Last revised: 27 May 2014
Date Written: July 24, 2012
In Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products Group, the First Circuit reversed a trial judge's exclusion of a plaintiff's expert testimony. The expert would have tetified that he concluded that exposure to benzene causes acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) based on the expert's analysis of the "weight of the evidence" in the scientific literature. This essay explores the meaning and implication of the Milward decision. It argues that (1) the outcome of the case is neither surprising nor outrageous in light of the way the issue was framed for the court; (2) the case is consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent on admissibility of expert testimony (Daubert, Joiner, and Kumho), and can be applied by future courts with appropriate guidelines; and (3) the case presages the increasing importance of mechanistic evidence in toxic tort cases that will require careful consideration by courts and nuanced use of the Bradford Hill causation guidelines.
Keywords: toxic tort, causation, benzene, acute promyelocytic leukemia, APL, expert witness, Daubert, Joiner, weight of the evidence, general causation
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