Proving causation in toxic tort litigation has proven difficult for a long time, says Genomics Law Report's Jon Ferry. But work being done in the field of toxicogenomics is allowing lawyers to refine their cases and take a more targeted approach. "Genomic level analysis provides the prospect for significantly sharpening the concept of relative risk, and perhaps in some cases altogether, supplanting population-based risk analysis with proof of specific causation," Ferry writes. Some plaintiffs may have genetic characteristics that make them susceptible to toxic substances, while some analysis may reveal genetic mutations in some people that can be directly traced to a specific cause. "The identification of a toxicogenomic response ... may allow litigants to confirm or refute actual exposure to the substance at issue and determine, at least in the eyes of the court, if the substance at issue actually causes the subject's illness," Ferry adds.
Come to think of it, toxicogenomics probably would have come in handy for Erin Brockovich.