MedMal Study Objectives

There are two types of objectives for the Lab’s Medical Malpractice (“MedMal”) Project:

  • First, to comparatively investigate the rule systems and evidence assessment patterns in medical malpractice cases in the United States and Italy;
  • Second, to develop protocols for using the default-logic framework to investigate legal decisions in two different legal systems involving two different natural languages.

The first type of objective is substantive: to comparatively investigate the rule systems of the U.S. and Italy that govern medical malpractice cases, and to study how U.S. and Italian judges apply those rules in deciding particular cases. In order to do this, we identify medical fact patterns for which we can find decisions in both jurisdictions, and then select decisions that are representative and instructive on several levels. First, the fact patterns and decisions should represent the major areas of medical conduct that give rise to malpractice law suits. Second, the decisions should involve the major types of legal issues that arise in medical malpractice cases. Third, the decisions should be sufficiently complex on the evidence, in order to comparatively investigate evidence assessment, and not merely rule systems.

The second type of objective focuses on the process of comparative study itself. The default-logic framework is designed to be a neutral framework for analyzing the reasoning within legal decisions – “neutral” in the sense of being independent of any particular legal system, and in the sense of being independent of any particular natural language. Our working hypothesis is that once we develop rule trees for a particular type of case in two legal systems (whether we view the rule trees as logic diagrams or as text trees), we will be able to compare the branches of those trees more effectively, and to identify similarities and dissimilarities more precisely.

In addition, within the default-logic framework evidence assessment is merely an extension of the rule tree to the evidence in the record in a particular case. That is, evidence assessment connects the evidence in the record to the rule tree through making findings of fact on the relevant legal issues. Because evidence assessment itself has a logical structure, patterns of evidence assessment can emerge within a given jurisdiction, and we can study those patterns comparatively between jurisdictions.

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