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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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Joint Causation, Torts, and Administrative Law in Environmental Health Protections

Joint Causation, Torts, and Administrative Law in Environmental Health Protections

(p.83) 3 Joint Causation, Torts, and Administrative Law in Environmental Health Protections
Regulating Toxic Substances

Kristin Shrader-frechette General

Oxford University Press

The chapter addresses a problem that affects both regulatory and tort law efforts to control exposure to carcinogens. What should be done when a disease may be the result of “joint causation”? That is, there are two or more possible causes, each of which alone would be sufficient to explain the presence of disease. Tort law has developed a solution to this problem which has recently been adopted by some courts considering toxic torts. However, the problem of joint causation and more general issues raised by causation reveal weaknesses in tort law for compensating victims exposed to toxic substances. Because of these and other problems with tort law, administrative institutions at least in principle may better control human exposure to toxic substances. However, such institutions face enough practical problems that they will not always reliably protect people from toxic substances. In the end, the chapter argues, there are several good reasons for preferring administrative agencies to tort law to provide environmental health protection. However, these theoretical advantages should not blind us to some of the political shortcomings of relying on administrative agencies. For that reason such agencies should not replace tort law, which can continue to serve a backup function to the agencies in our legal system.

Keywords:   regulatory agencies, tort law, joint causation, administrative institutions, toxic substances, disease

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