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Liability for thee, but not for me

As David Oliver points out, we correctly don't hold scientists liable for making mistakes in cutting-edge science; when an Italy even considers the issue, as they did in an unsuccessful criminal prosecution of scientists that failed to predict a deadly earthquake, we justifiably ridicule them. Science is a process of trial and error, and we want scientists to explore hypotheses that might be wrong without fear of legal consequence for failure. So why do we hold manufacturers liable for failing to anticipate the future judgments of lay juries evaluating the predictions of scientists presented at trial testimony, most of which are arguable at best?

Of course, this sort of double-standard is common. We don't hold lawyers liable for the larger effects on society when they use abusive litigation to make us less safe by driving safe and effective products from the marketplace. We let juries second-guess doctors when experts disagree over the correct course of medicine, but give that discretion to attorneys free from liability.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.