Beyond Sindell: Relaxation of Cause-in-Fact Rules for Indeterminate Plaintiffs
25 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2012
Date Written: 1982
Discusses a doctrine (the Sindell rule) enabling plaintiffs to shift the burden of proof onto several defendants when all of them have exposed him or her to a risk which has eventuated, but the plaintiff is uncertain which one is to blame for the injury. Proposes extending this rule in the miror-image case when an "indeterminate plaintiff" is one of several living in a locality who have suffered similar injuries, some of which may be due to natural causes but others of which are known to be attributable to the defendant, such as a polluter who has caused an increase in the number of asthma or cancer cases. Evaluates policy grounds for the extension and points out particular scenarios where extension of the Sindell rule to the case of indeterminate plaintiffs (rather than defendants) makes sense. Anticipates objections to the proposal and responds to them.
Keywords: Sindell, indeterminate plaintiffs, causation in fact, tort liability, pollution, group harms
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation