Copyright (c) 2000 Virginia Law Review Association
Virginia Law Review
ESSAY: SCIENTIFIC AUTHORITY: THE BREAST IMPLANT LITIGATION AND BEYOND
86 Va. L. Rev. 801
Laurens Walker * and John Monahan **
The breast implant litigation has produced the first National Science Panel appointed by a federal trial judge. 1 The Panel, composed of four members picked from various disciplines, was charged with making findings about general causation and silicon implants. 2 After more than two years of study and at a cost to the parties of $ 800,000, 3 on December 1, 1998, the four Panel members reported they did not find a sufficient scientific basis to link silicon implants to either connective tissue diseases or immune system dysfunctions. 4 On June 21, 1999, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences issued a report - as requested by Congress - that reached the same result. 5 But the appointment of the Panel and even the completion of the Panel's work mark only the beginning of what will likely be a long and contentious struggle over the proper use of science panel results in both the current implant litigation and in future litigation.
In this Essay, we propose a "scientific authority" model that will yield a comprehensive plan for resolving questions about the use of science panel results in the trial court, on appeal, and in collateral cases in the breast implant litigation and other mass tort cases. Recent Supreme Court decisions have dramatically reduced the prospects for widespread settlement in mass tort litigation and prompted the need for adjudicative solutions. 6 Our proposal is not intended to favor either plaintiffs or defendants, but is intended ...
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