Publication Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

3-2011

Abstract

In March 2010, the Australian High Court in Amaca Ltd v Ellis [2010] HCA 5 (“Amaca”) moved assertively to clarify the approach of the Australian courts to causation in cases of lung disease involving multiple pathogens. The court demonstrated sensitivity to both the scientific and legal inquiries while reaffirming the obligation of plaintiffs to prove causation based on the balance of probabilities. In examining the plaintiff’s statistical evidence, the court established important guideposts regarding the proper use and interpretation of epidemiology in the courtroom, highlighting both the relevance and limits of such proof regarding causation and the satisfaction of the plaintiff’s evidentiary burden. While Amaca dealt with lung cancer, asbestos and cigarette smoking, the court’s careful approach to the statistical evidence and reaffirmation of the common law standard of “but for” causation are likely to resonate beyond the asbestos field to cases involving other complex diseases arising from a range of low-level occupational and environmental exposures. The High Court has established a practical and useful road map for the manner in which courts should integrate scientific proof into the inquiry while preserving the fundamental aspects and related application of the common law doctrine of causation.

Discipline

Courts | Evidence

Research Areas

Law, Society and Governance

Publication

Singapore Academy of Law Journal

Volume

23

Issue

1

First Page

307

Last Page

322

ISSN

0218-2009

Publisher

Singapore Academy of Law

Comments

Case Note

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