Toxic torts is a body of law that aims to compensate individuals for harms they suffer from exposure to hazardous substances. To successfully bring a toxic tort claim, a plaintiff must prove the main elements of a general tort cause of action: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Causation in a toxic tort case is particularly challenging to prove given the nature of toxic substances. To prove the toxicant in question caused the damages alleged, plaintiffs often present expert testimony based on scientific studies. Animal model studies, in particular, can help factfinders understand the health implications of the toxicants at issue. However, judges, scholars, and other legal professionals are skeptical of the use of animal studies because of scientific and legal concerns, which range from interspecies disparities to prejudice of juries. These concerns are either unfounded or exaggerated. Animal model studies can be both reliable and relevant in toxic tort cases. Given the Federal Rules of Evidence, case law relevant to scientific evidence, and one of the goals of tort law-justice-judges should more readily admit these types of studies as evidence to help plaintiffs meet the burden of proof in toxic tort litigation.
Kristen Ranges and Jessica Owley, Vermin of Proof: Arguments for the Admissibility of Animal Model Studies as Proof of Causation in Toxic Tort Litigation, 34 Geo. Env't L. Rev. 303 (2022).