ARTICLES - Boston University

14 Jan 2004 - company's statistical knowledge that the design would cause more injuries and deaths than an ...... A playground equipment company designs and manufactures a jungle gym for use during ...... 143 I include this qualification to recognize the possibility that where the national security is genuinely at stake, ...
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ARTICLES STATISTICAL KNOWLEDGE DECONSTRUCTED KENNETH W. SIMONS∗

INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................... 3 I. THE LEGAL RELEVANCE OF COGNITIVE MENTAL STATES .................... 13 II. STATISTICAL KNOWLEDGE DECONSTRUCTED ....................................... 17 A. Specifying the Problem .................................................................. 17 B. The Principle of ICAA (Invariant Culpability when Acts are Aggregated) ............................................................................. 24 C. Does ICAA Apply to Faulty Actors? .............................................. 30 D. The Special Stringency Principle for Highly Concentrated Risks............................................................................................... 36 E. How Should We Distinguish Statistical from Individualized Knowledge? ........................................................... 44 1. The Principle of ICREA (Invariant Culpability when Risk-Exposures are Aggregated) ............................................. 46 2. Statistical Knowledge of a Risk That Is Extremely Unjustifiable ............................................................................ 49 III. APPLICATIONS ....................................................................................... 59 A. Knowledge in Contexts Other Than Knowingly Causing Serious Harm ................................................................................. 59 B. If a Cost-Benefit Analysis Supplies Statistical Knowledge, Is the Actor Culpable for Proceeding? .......................................... 62 C. Can Retributivists Tolerate the Predicted Mistaken Punishment of the Innocent? ......................................................... 67 D. Practical and Doctrinal Issues ...................................................... 71 CONCLUSION ..................................................................................................... 72 APPENDIX: HEURISTIC ERRORS AND VICTIM IDENTIFIABILITY ........................ 76 A. The Significance of Large Numbers .............................................. 76 B. Is the Real Question Whether the Victim Is Identifiable?.............. 77



Professor of Law & The Honorable Frank R. Kenison Distinguished Scholar in Law, Boston University School of Law. For helpful comments, I thank Matt Adler, Larry Alexander, Mitch Berman, Eric Blumenson, Bob Bone, Mike Cahill, Alon Harel, Kim Ferzan, Leo Katz, Greg Keating, Adam Kolber, Gerry Leonard, Mike Meurer, Nancy Moore, and Mike Otsuka; participants at Boston University School of Law, Brooklyn Law School, and University of Texas School of Law faculty workshops; and participants at the Harvard Law School Private Law Workshop. I am also grateful to Joseph Cooper, Andrew Keutmann, Greg Racki, and Renee Williams for excellent research and editorial assistance.

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BOSTON UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW

[Vol. 92:1

DRAMATIS PERSONAE AND CHARTS ................................................................. 87 The law frequently distinguishes between individualized knowledge, or awareness that one’s act will harm a particular victim, and statistical knowledge, or awareness that one’s activity or multiple acts will, to a high statistical likelihood, harm one or more persons from a large class of potential victims. (Compare driving through an intersection while aware that one’s automobile is likely to injure a pedestrian in the crosswalk with managing a large construction project that one confidently predicts will result in worker injuries.) Under tort and criminal law doctrine, acting with individualized knowledge is ordinarily much more difficult to justify and, if unjustified, much more culpable than acting with statistical knowledge. Yet the distinction is remarkably difficult to explain and defend. This Article – the first systematic analysis of this pervasive but underappreciated problem – offers a qualified