Counterfactual Causation

Hillel J. Bavli.

Factual causation is the element of a legal claim that requires a plaintiff to link the defendant’s conduct to the plaintiff’s injury—to show that the former did not merely coincide with the latter but rather produced it. It is intended to reflect “natural” or “actual” cause and effect, a “scientific” causal connection between conduct and injury. It aims to capture “our common understanding of causation” and “deep-seated intuitions about causation and fairness in attributing responsibility.” Developing an appropriate standard, or even definition, of causation is a perennial problem across many areas of the law. Strangely, however, although courts frequently look to statistics and the sciences for evidence of causation—sometimes even requiring such evidence to prove causation—the law has rarely looked to these fields for guidance in developing a suitable definition of causation. This is in spite of a well-studied and robust field of science devoted to questions of cause and effect.

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