Mass tort cases often involve complex issues. Including issues of causation, design flaws/negligence, and their effects on people. Because of the magnitude and the stakes involved, parties invariably enlist the support of various experts, commonly scientists. And this is where mass tort attorney science comes in. The reliance in mass torts upon concrete and admissible scientific evidence leads attorneys to search for scientific resources. These resources help mass tort attorneys support their legal theories, provide insight into emerging potential litigations, and is unbiased in their quest for facts.
In general, scientific evidence is based off knowledge developed by using the scientific method, and so, scientific evidence is both hypothesized and tested. And so, the scientific community generally accepts it. Under most circumstances, the theory on which the scientific evidence is based has been published in scientific journal. And these publications are subjected to peer review within the scientific community.
To get reliable results, a study has to be carefully planned from the start. One thing that is important to consider is the best suited type of study to the research question. A study protocol should be written, and complete documentation of the study’s process should also be done. This is vital for other scientists to be able to reproduce and check the results afterwards.
The main types of studies are randomized controlled trials (RCTs), cohort studies, case-control studies, and qualitative studies.
Mass Tort Attorney Science Through Randomized Controlled Trials
If you want to know how effective a treatment or diagnostic test is, randomized trials provide the most reliable answers. The effect of the treatment is compared with “no treatment” (or a different treatment). And so, they can also show what happens if you opt to not have the treatment or diagnostic test.
To start, a research question is stipulated . This involves deciding what exactly should be tested and in what group of people. To be able to reliably assess how effective the treatment is, the following things need to be determined before starting:
- First, How long should the study last?
- Second, The amount of participants needed
- Lastly, How the effect of the treatment should be measured?
For instance, a medication used to treat menopause symptoms needs to be tested on a different group of people than an allergy medicine. And a study on treatment for a stuffy nose may be much shorter than a study on a drug taken to prevent heart attacks.
How to Go About RCTs?
“Randomized” means divided into groups by chance. In RCTs participants are randomly assigned to one of two or more groups. Then one group receives the new drug A, for example, while the other group receives the conventional drug B or a placebo. Things like the appearance and taste of the drug and the placebo should be as similar as possible. Ideally, assigning is done “double blinded,” meaning that neither the participants nor their doctors know who is in which group.
Randomized controlled trials provide the best results when trying to find a cause-and-effect relationship. RCTs can answer questions such as these:
- Is the new drug A better than the standard treatment for medical condition X?
- Does doing preventative hamstring exercises prevent injury in amateur soccer players?
Evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) aew considered to be at the top of the evidence pyramid. It is recommended that clinical practice decisions are based on evidence emanating from well‐conducted RCTs when available.
Cohort Studies as Mass Tort Attorney Science
A cohort study observes people as two or more groups, from exposure to outcome. A key feature of the cohort study design is following subjects over time. Subjects who are exposed and not exposed to a factor are used to start. From here, then evaluates the subsequent occurrence of an outcome.
Cohort studies are useful when studying incidence, causes, and prognosis. Unlike, cross-sectional studies, which are often used to determine prevalence. Cohort studies are especially useful if you want to find out how common a medical condition is and which factors increase the risk of developing it. They can answer questions such as:
- How does high blood pressure affect heart health?
- Does smoking increase your risk of lung cancer?
Cohort studies can have a prospective (forward-looking) design or a retrospective (backward-looking) design.
Case-control studies compare people who have a certain medical condition with people who do not have the medical condition, but who are otherwise as similar as possible, for example in terms of their sex and age. Afterwards, to find risk factors, the two groups are interviewed, or their medical files analyzed, . Case-control studies are generally retrospective.
Case-control studies are one way to gain knowledge about rare diseases. They are also not as expensive or time-consuming as RCTs or cohort studies. But it is often difficult to tell which people are the most similar to each other. And so, these types of studies should be compared with each other. Because the researchers usually ask about past events, they are dependent on the participants’ memories, which can be inaccurate.
Many people will be familiar with this kind of study. The classic type of cross-sectional study is the survey. A representative group of people – usually a random sample – are interviewed for their opinions or facts. Because this data is collected only once, cross-sectional studies are relatively quick and inexpensive. They can provide information on things like the prevalence of a particular disease (how common it is). But they cannot tell us anything about the cause of a disease or what the best treatment might be.
This type of study helps us understand, for instance, what it is like for people to live with a certain disease. Unlike other kinds of research, qualitative research does not rely on numbers and data. Instead, it is based on information collected by talking to people who have a particular medical condition and people close to them. This study also uses written documents and observations.
Medical and Scientific Journals as A Resource for Mass Tort Attorney Science
The original purpose of scientific and medical journals was to permit scientists and physicians to communicate with one another. A newer aim is to permit scientists and physicians to communicate with people who may not be trained as scientists or physicians — to communicate with the world at large. The field of medicine is vast. And research and clinical trials take place all over the world. The best way to stay abreast of cutting-edge research is by sifting through scientific journals which are readily available in print and online. Maintaining standard and quality of the content means most medical journals are peer reviewed.
Below are the top medical and scientific journals with the highest impact factor in medical, scientific, and legal decision-making. They are journals which have decades of history backing them and have become the gold standard in medicine.
The oldest peer reviewed medical journal in the world is The Lancet. And experts consider it the Bible of medical practice and science.
Published by the Massachusetts Medical Society, it is one of the oldest and most widely read medical journals. First published in 1821 it is a weekly periodical that helps healthcare professionals bridge the gap between clinical science and clinical practice, thereby improving medical knowledge. The journal reports breakthroughs in medications that have cured many significant diseases. The aim is to broadcast correct and accurate medical information.
JAMA is a peer-reviewed medical journal that the American Medical Association publishes 48 times a year. It includes original research, reviews, and editorials. And it covers all aspects of biomedicine.
Science, also widely referred to as Science Magazine, is the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It is one of the world’s top academic journals.
Published by the American College of Physicians (ACP), the periodical publishes medical articles, research, and reviews in the field of internal medicine Annals publishes a wide variety of original research, review articles, practice guidelines, and commentary relevant to clinical practice, health care delivery, public health, health care policy, medical education, ethics, and research methodology.
IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer headquartered in Lyon, France, operates under the auspices of the World Health Organization. IARC convenes groups of scientists from around the globe three times a year. Additionally, these working groups evaluate the weight of the evidence that an agent, chemical compound, complex mixtures (including individual foods), occupational exposures, physical and biological agents and lifestyle factors, can influence the risk of cancer in humans.
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that often addresses issues and how to solve them. The term white paper originated from the government’s color-coding system for distribution. At the time, public access papers got the color white. Thus, politics, business, and technical fields use white papers.
Attorneys can find white papers on any number of issues such as “Asbestos and the Future of Mass Torts,” published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Today, for-profit companies are the major publishers of white papers. Making them a marketing tool that can often be confused with a neutral scientific paper. While both publications have their purpose, it is important for attorneys to know how they differ.
Science Books for Lawyers
For lawyers who are looking to deepen their scientific knowledge there are several books available:
- Science for Lawyers clearly explains and discusses 13 applied scientific disciplines in jargon-free language. The book explores the definitions, the practice. and the professional roles of 13 professional disciplines. Disciplines vary, including ballistics, medicine, physics, statistics, linguistics, genetics, chemistry and more.
- The Science and Technology Guidebook for Lawyers begins with a survey of the question “What is science?” through two different lenses—the scientist and the legal practitioner. The book draws examples from forensic science to illustrate the importance of practicing good science. Followed by a short treatise on the philosophy of science. Next, the text focuses on the important role that definition and interpretation play. Focusing on framing the legal issues dependent on science and technology.
Not all Mass Tort Attorney Science is Reliable
Scientific article retraction happens for various reasons. A few examples include errors in data, errors in calculation, plagiarism, and fraud. A 2012 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) article, found that retraction because of fraud has increased dramatically in the last 40 years. Another example, In 2016 the John Marshall Law Review published “The Crisis in Scientific Publishing and its Effect on the Admissibility of Technical and Scientific Evidence”. This detailed the changes in scientific publishing over the last twenty that have weakened the peer-review process affecting the viability of Daubert.
Want to learn more about what is takes to have a successful mass tort firm and support team? Join us at the Mass Tort Academy from experts at the Mass Tort Institute! Sign up for the MTI Memo, our monthly newsletter for the latest in the mass tort industry.
Written by Jerise Henson
About the Author
Jerise Henson is the Academy Content Writer at The Mass Tort Institute. She has served in numerous roles in mass tort firms from case manager to paralegal and director of client services. She is passionate and dedicated to improving education and training for allied professionals in the mass tort industry.
The Mass Tort Institute is a consortium of industry leaders dedicated to providing education, training, and networking opportunities for those advocating on behalf of mass tort victims.