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Regulating Toxic SubstancesA Philosophy of Science and the Law$
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Carl F. Cranor

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780195074369

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195074369.001.0001

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Scientific Evidence in the Tort Law

Scientific Evidence in the Tort Law

(p.49) 2 Scientific Evidence in the Tort Law
Regulating Toxic Substances

Kristin Shrader-frechette General

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues against the shift in paradigm in favor of scientific evidence in tort law cases. Recent proposals, seeking to require more demanding scientific evidence in toxic tort (and other) suits, are mistaken because these seem to impose a universal standard of evidence for quite different institutions—with the risk of distorting existing reasonable tort law relationships, and erring on the side of exclusion rather than admission of evidence. Since the plaintiff bears the burden of production, requiring that this be met by proof equivalent to the criminal law's “beyond a reasonable doubt,” requirement, as some have argued, this substantially distorts the balance of interests between plaintiff and defendant. The appropriate paradigm is not that for scientific practice but the traditional tort law standard of evidence articulated in Ferebee v. Chevron Chemical Co., which said that the appropriate standard is not scientific certainty but “legal sufficiency.” The paradigm of choice in torts is in a sense inclined to retain much of the status quo.

Keywords:   tort law, burden of proof, scientific evidence, legal sufficiency, reasonable doubt

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