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February 26, 1992

Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom

Author Affiliations

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

JAMA. 1992;267(8):1136-1137. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480080106039

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Doctors who have had the unpleasant experience of defending themselves against medical malpractice suits based on spurious scientific claims will readily identify with Galileo's Revenge. Peter Huber has produced a superb diatribe against the current legal system that allows plaintiffs' lawyers to trump up cases based on frivolous scientific grounds and to produce extraordinary awards.

Although the major part of the book is devoted to individual cases in which bogus science marches forth to create cascades of truly absurd decisions, the first and last chapters and some sections in between address the role of legal theory in facilitating these developments. Huber sees the legal and economic theory of the 1960s and 1970s, most particularly the theory exemplified in Guido Calabresi's The Cost of Accidents, as central to the movement in the courts to admit unsubstantiated causation-packed scientific explanations. This theory holds that the primary purpose of liability "should be, above