"[M]edical-products liability cases often seek compensation for 'phantom risks' that are nonexistent, or at least unproven. Trial lawyers have cashed in for billions of dollars with such claims of injury, lacking any real scientific evidence, by relying on what Manhattan Institute legal scholar Peter Huber calls 'junk science' - assertions presented as scientific fact but in reality more like astrology than astronomy, more like alchemy than chemistry, and more like numerology than mathematics. By exlpoiting loose evidentiary requirements, clever lawyers have been able to use junk-science testimony to dupe unsophisticated juries into believing their far-fetched claims." - Trial Lawyers, Inc. Health Care, Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, October 2005
What is Junk Science?
Junk science is questionable, unfounded or misleading information that is put forth as medical or scientific fact. Junk science is medical or scientific claims that are not supported by fact and not validated by others within the scientific and medical community.
What are Signs of Junk Science?
Some warning signs of junk science include:
- Doctors and scientists who provide expert opinions outside of their areas of expertise or without having the necessary educational background and training.
- Doctors or scientists who are paid on the basis of their findings.
- Sensational “findings” and “studies” that are released through the media without the endorsement of other scientific or medical experts.
Why is Junk Science a Problem?
Junk science can needlessly confuse and scare consumers and is often used to support junk lawsuits and questionable claims. These baseless cases clog our courtrooms and delay justice for the truly injured. Additionally, so-called “expert” witnesses who peddle junk science undermine the integrity of our legal system, the medical profession and qualified expert witnesses.
Examples of Junk Science
- Fen-phen litigation: An independent review of 120 echocardiograms diagnosed with heart damage by two cardiologists hired by plaintiffs’ attorneys in the fen-phen litigation found that only 6 percent actually showed heart problems. One of the doctors who diagnosed the claims received an extra $1,500 for every positive reading. The other doctor’s sonographer was trained by an employee of the plaintiff’s attorney. (“Tough Questions Are Raised On Fen-Phen Compensation,” The New York Times, 10/7/03; “The Fen-Phen Follies,” The American Lawyer, 3/1/05)
- Silicosis: In 2004, U.S. District Court Judge Jack of the Southern District of Texas tossed out many silicosis claims as manufactured diagnoses. One doctor had his secretary fill out patient diagnoses on blank forms, while another analyzed 1,239 patients in 72 hours. Many of the alleged victims in the lawsuit had at one time been diagnosed with and filed claims for asbestosis. (“A Break For The Defense,” BusinessWeek, 11/7/05)
- Asbestosis: A study comparing x-ray analyses of asbestos-related lung damage revealed that while physicians hired by the plaintiff's lawyers reported that 95.9 percent of 492 chest x-rays had possible asbestos-related lung damage, unaffiliated doctors found that only 4.5 percent of them showed possible damage (“Comparison of ‘B’-Readers’ Interpretations of Chest Radiographs for Asbestos Related Changes,” Academic Radiology, 8/04; “The Great Asbestos Deception,” San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/13/04)
- “Toxic” mold: In California, Dr. Gary Ordog has appeared as an expert witness for $9,800 up front plus $975 an hour in (by his estimate) hundreds of lawsuits to testify that mold can cause a terrifying array of diseases, from lung cancer to cirrhosis of the liver. The American College of Occupational & Environmental Medicine and the Federal Institute of Medicine say there's no evidence for such claims. The vice president of Ordog's own professional association, the American College of Medical Toxicology, agrees. (“Dr. Mold,” Forbes Magazine, 4/11/05)
- Welding rod litigation: Seventy percent of the 4,500 patients involved in welding rode related lawsuits before a Cleveland federal judge were “diagnosed” in mass screenings. Of these cases, only 14 percent of the patients incurred medical expenses due to treatment for illnesses associated with the alleged negative health effects of welding rods. In addition, 40 percent of this patient group have previously filed lawsuits alleged negative health effects due to asbestos or silica exposure. (“Plaintiffs in Welding-Fumes Case Win a Skirmish in Federal Court,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/26/05; “A Break For The Defense,” BusinessWeek, 11/7/05)