Junk Science in the Courtroom
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 A polemic twice as long as it should be by lawyer/engineer Huber (Liability, 1988), now taking aim at the hired-hand expert witnesses who are called upon in liability cases where appeal to science is the issue. Where are the days of yore when judges exercised judgment about the credentials of experts? Or when juries acted on the conviction that victims might be self-destructive, ignorant, or otherwise to blame? All that is gone in these days of ``junk'' science, says Huber, in which self-proclaimed fringe scientists are given equal weight in the courtroom. So we hear about trauma- induced cancers, chemically induced AIDS, the dangers of all IUDs and of self-accelerating Audi cars (dramatically depicted on 60 Minutes). Huber sees the new let-it-all-hang-in courtroom behavior as rooted in a new liability-science that uses law to effect social control by charging accidents to the person (or agent) who might have prevented it most cheaply. So instead of blaming the victim for mistaking the accelerator for the brake, blame the car designer; blame the tobacco company and not the chain-smoker; blame the IUD for pelvic inflammatory disease and not its promiscuous user. Indeed, Huber's blame-the-victim harping mars what is often an incisive indictment of stupidity, arrogance, and deception masking as fair justice. Moreover, the question of why America is so litigious a society, driven to vicious circles of fear and distrust, suit and countersuit, and what can be done about it are barely touched upon. Huber's appeal to good science and the noble search for truth are to be commended, but, it should be noted, manufacturers do make mistakes that cost lives, victims are often innocent, and medical science has yet to reach consensus concerning the cause and cure of many an ailment.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1991
ISBN: 0-465-02623-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991