Dalhousie Law Journal


causation, common sense, power, judges, medical malpractice, phenomenology, medicine


The language of counterfactual causation employed from the bench obscures the analytical vacuity of the "butfor" test. This paper takes issue with the consistent recourse to "common sense" as a methodological tool for determining the deeply complex issue of causality. Despite manifestly empty gestures to, e.g., robust pragmatism, the current approach imposes the dominant values of the judiciary in a manner that perpetuates the current distribution of power. Whatever the merits of counterfactual inquiry, its legal iteration requires judges to construct a hypothetical narrative about "how things generally happen." This, in turn, impels a uniquely comprehensive brand ofjudicialcreativity. The results are productively examined in the context ofmedical malpractice, where the phenomenological lens foregrounds the connection between meaningless doctrine and the protection of the medical elite.