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Epidemiology and policy
P1-238 The potential contribution of epidemiology to the resolution of disputes about causation in personal injury law
  1. C McIvor1,
  2. M Zeegers2
  1. 1Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Birmingham Medical School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Abstract

Legal courts have a poor track record in interpreting statistical evidence. They are notoriously suspicious of such evidence and uncomfortable with the idea of basing legal conclusions upon it. In this presentation we will argue that a large part of this suspicion stems from a lack of understanding about how to interpret clinical evidence, particularly where the issue in question is one of factual causation. The aim of this presentation is to promote the role of clinical epidemiology in resolving legal disputes about causation in certain categories of personal injury litigation. Clinical epidemiologists can help in two ways with the resolution of legal disputes over probabilistic causation. Firstly, they can provide prediction models, that, ‘personalised statistical evidence’ for consideration by the courts and, secondly, they can provide guidance to the courts on how to assess the validity of previous clinical research, and on how to interpret research findings. Using the high profile UK House of Lords decision in Gregg v Scott [2005] UKHL 2 as an example, this presentation will highlight common and fundamental errors made by lawyers in assessing issues of probabilistic causation. It will then demonstrate how these errors could be redressed through the employment of epidemiological expertise. While epidemiological evidence has been relied upon in the past in toxic tort litigation, it has never before been used in the context of an individual claim for negligent diagnosis.

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Footnotes

  • Dr.[Anonymous], Tort Lawyer, Prof.[Anonymous], Epidemiologist

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