Exposure to potentially harmful substances at some level is a fact of modern life. These substances are everywhere — in the air we breathe, in the food we eat, and in the water we drink — and many of these substances are naturally occurring. It is impossible to have zero exposure to all of them.

For both science and law, however, the issue is not whether someone has some detectable exposure. Rather, it is whether the dose was sufficient (in quantity and duration) to cause harm.

In a regulatory setting, the question posed is what level of exposure creates an unreasonable risk of harm. In a lawsuit, however, the alleged harm has already occurred, usually in the form of a disease that has many possible causes. The question is causation.
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Ruling On Scientific Evidence Closes Some Doors But Opens Others

The Seventh Circuit has struck down a common feature of preliminary approval orders of federal class action settlements. The Seventh Circuit held that a federal court may not preliminarily enjoin class members from prosecuting related state lawsuits while the court decides whether to give final approval to the class settlement.  Adkins v. Nestlé Purina PetCare Co., No. 14-3436, 2015 WL 864931 (7th Cir. Mar. 2, 2015).

These types of preliminary injunctions are commonly used in a broad range of consumer and other class settlements, and they are particularly important when a defendant is facing several competing class actions on the same issue.  But the Seventh Circuit held that these injunctions violate the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283—even though the court acknowledged that federal settlements “may well collapse” if state actions go to judgment before federal courts can approve the settlements.    
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Guts Important Tool for Resolving Federal Class Actions