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Chances, Individuals and Toxic Torts

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We currently live in a world of silent risks caused by invisible agents acting through mechanisms poorly understood. It is not surprising that the resulting harms have led to litigation. Playing a visible role in all these cases is the ‘causation problem’; plaintiffs face sometimes insurmountable hurdles in providing evidence for causation. However, the fact that mechanisms are hidden does not mean that one cannot have reliable evidence and information about them.

In this paper I argue that the law has taken an ill-founded, skeptical stance towards statistical evidence for causation in toxic tort cases, making the task of plaintiffs unjustly difficult. I address two frequently cited skeptical claims about statistical evidence and argue that they are unfounded as applied in tort law. I conclude that the skeptical stance results from a failure to distinguish physical chances from epistemic probabilities, and that such a distinction is necessary if plaintiffs are to have a chance of prevailing.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge, Raised Faculty Building, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, UK, CB3 9DA

Publication date: 1997-08-01

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