Constructed ignorance in a tobacco litigation in Japan
Paper short abstract:
I will analyze how ignorance intentionally produced by the tobacco industry has been treated in recent litigations in Japan. It is critical for judges and lawyers to have broader understanding of science to deal with ignorance. I will particularly focus on dealings of conflicts of interest at court.
Paper long abstract:
Updating a previous publication (Iida and Proctor, Lancet 2004), I will analyze in this paper how ignorance intentionally produced by the tobacco industry has been treated by the Japanese judges in a recent litigation. In September 2015, the Tokyo High Court decided that there was no scientific consensus about harms of passive smoking, based on studies that have been supported by foreign tobacco manufactures. This case might be seen as a warning sign for future litigations calling for scientific information to resolve plaintiffs' health claims. With the growth of large global industries, aggressive production of ignorance is expected to be more to come. If Court is the key place to prevent and compensate damage caused by industrial toxicants or consumer products, then judges and lawyers as well as media reports should have a much proper way to deal with such voluntary produced unknowns. Understanding and discussing science in an old rigid sense without paying attention to its making of would end up considering all scientific evidence equally at court. It is however unrealistic to ask judges to evaluate the quality of each scientific study. The problem might be rather: how could they appreciate a cohort of studies which are intended to jam information that should be useful to answer a specific risk. My analysis will therefore focus on how courts dealt with conflicts of interest, in recent tobacco litigations.
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