March 01, 2017

Does the Dose Still “Make the Poison” under Daubert?

Jessalee Landfried and Eric L. Klein

Toxic tort litigation typically turns on a deceptively simple question: did a particular substance cause a particular harm? More fundamentally, is a particular substance harmful in the first place? In the legal context, courts traditionally have held to the old adage that “the dose makes the poison.” Under that view, no substance is per se harmful. Any substance can be harmful, but only after a certain threshold dose has been administered, and that dose can vary widely from substance to substance. For example, apple seeds contain cyanide compounds, but they are harmless unless ingested in massive quantities. Even water can be fatal if you drink enough.

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