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Durham University

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Publication details

Goldberg, R. (2009). Causation, Idiopathic Conditions and the Limits of Epidemiology. Edinburgh Law Review 13(2): 282-286.

Author(s) from Durham


The absence of scientific evidence with respect to the cause of damage is one of the
most difficult problems faced by courts in determining causation. Occasionally, Scots
law is required to resolve such cases.1 They are essentially about scientific uncertainty,
which may arise from limitations in scientific knowledge about a particular biological
process (general causation) or from the difficulty in providing a scientific explanation
for the sequence in an individual case (individual causation).2 Both forms of scientific
uncertainty arose in Smith v McNair,3 where the difficult legal and medical issue
addressed, and deemed to be "at the frontier edge of causation",4 was whether a
road accident accelerated the development of Parkinson's disease in a pursuer already
suffering from the condition.