Science in the Courtroom

October 22, 1993 • Volume 3, Issue 39
Is scientific evidence being misused in lawsuits?
By Kenneth Jost

Introduction

Scientific disputes are being conducted today not just in laboratories and academic journals but in courtrooms, too. Judges and juries are being asked to decide unresolved scientific questions in a growing number of high-stakes lawsuits involving drugs, toxic chemicals and industrial processes. Plaintiffs in these cases have argued that high-power electric lines cause cancer, industrial chemicals damage the immune system and a drug once used for morning sickness causes birth defects. Business groups, legal critics and many scientists have sharply disputed the scientific basis for the claims. They complain that judges have been too lax in permitting what they call “junk science” to be used in the courtroom. Plaintiff and consumer groups, however, say that when scientists disagree, the legal disputes must be settled by the courts, not by scientists.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Challenges of the Courts
Jan. 14, 2011  Cameras in the Courtroom
Oct. 22, 1993  Science in the Courtroom
May 27, 1988  Protecting Rights in State Courts
Oct. 07, 1983  Court Backlog
Jan. 16, 1981  Television in the Courtroom
Jun. 03, 1970  Reform of the Courts
Nov. 16, 1960  Congestion in the Courts
Mar. 07, 1956  Cameras in Court
Jul. 18, 1939  Reform of Lower Federal Courts
Feb. 04, 1936  Restriction of Powers of Federal Courts
Apr. 14, 1931  Reform of Magistrates' Courts
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Crime and Law Enforcement
Engineering
Pharmaceuticals