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Reasoning Structures in Legal Texts (RSLT) is a collaborative project between the Law, Logic and Technology Lab and the Digital Research Center at Hofstra University. The project is dedicated to studying, and making accessible to others, the reasoning structures that we find in legal texts, primarily in judicial and administrative decisions.

The documents listed on this page are drawn from the V/IP Corpus of the LLT Lab. Documents consist of illustrative excerpts of reasoning from vaccine-injury compensation decisions of the United States Court of Federal Claims. The reasoning is fact-finding reasoning, typically based on evidence from fact testimony, expert testimony, medical records, scientific and medical publications, and other sources.

In a petition for vaccine-injury compensation, a petitioner claims entitlement to compensation by proving, among other things, that a vaccination covered by the program played a causal role in bringing about an alleged injury. If the government contests a claim, “special masters” attached to the Court of Federal Claims decide which evidence is relevant to which issues of fact, evaluate the plausibility of the evidence in the legal record, organize that evidence and draw reasonable inferences, and make findings of fact.

A critical legal issue in such a case is causation: a petitioner filing a claim should receive compensation only if the vaccination received did in fact cause the injury. In 2005, the case of Althen v. Secretary of Health and Human Services (reported at 418 F.3d 1274 (Fed.Cir. 2005)) codified three substantive conditions (sub-issues to be proved) for drawing an inference of causation in the most complex vaccine cases. The petitioner must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence (see Althen at 1278):

  • Issue 1: A “medical theory causally connects” the type of vaccine with the type of injury.
  • Issue 2: There was a “logical sequence of cause and effect” between the particular vaccination and the particular injury.
  • Issue 3: A “proximate temporal relationship” existed between the vaccination and the injury.

The documents currently in this library of RSLT are identified by the petitioner’s name in the title of the case and date of the decision, followed by the page in the special master’s decision from which the excerpt was taken (e.g., “Casey-12Dec2005-pg26”).


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