The Texas Supreme Court is hearing arguments in three cases on Wednesday, November 20th.
The most interesting might be its juvenile-justice case, which asks if a child too young to consent to sex can nonetheless form the criminal intent necessary to commit prostitution. (( The Texas Supreme Court has jurisdiction over juvenile-justice cases, while all other criminal proceedings go instead to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. ))
The other two cases involve proving causation of medical injuries.
Causation in Vioxx cases
Merck & Co., Inc. v. Felicia Garza, No. 09-0073 (more info)
This case asks the Court to determine if expert testimony is sufficient under Havner to show that Vioxx caused the plaintiff’s injury.
As I understand it, Merck argues that — in order to show that the drug was the “more likely than not” cause of an injury — a plaintiff must always put on evidence of clinical trials showing that the risk of a particular negative effect more than doubles with the drug. If the risk is not more than double, by this reasoning, the chance that the drug caused the injury is less than 50%.
This is a nice law school hypothetical. And perhaps an incentive to make sure the next miracle drug doesn’t quite double the risk of a dread illness.
Can a child too young to consent to sex nonetheless have the mental state necessary to commit prostitution?
In re B.W., No. 08-1044 (more info)
These facts read a like a bad first draft of Taxi Driver, where Iris goes to jail and her pimp goes free.
A child under the age of 14 was charged with prostitution. She told state officials that she had been coerced into prostitution by her 32-year-old boyfriend. In the words of the Court’s public-information officer:
She essentially pleaded guilty (“true”) to the prostitution allegation, but moved for a new trial on her contention she was too young to be adjudicated for the offense.
On appeal, she argues that she was legally too young to have committed prostitution and that her due-process rights were violated when the state refused to investigate her boyfriend, which might have yielded evidence of a defense.
Causation for workers-compensation injuries
Transcontinental Insurance Co. v. Joyce Crump, No. 09-0005 (more info)
Here is how the Court’s public-information officer explained the facts:
In this case Crump won death benefits under workers compensation for her husband’s death after Transcontinental contested her claim. Transcontinental argued that the work-related injury, a knee contusion, was not the producing cause of several complications that led to Mr. Crump’s death because those complications related to Crump’s being prone to infection following a kidney transplant 15 years before. A jury determined the knee injury was the producing cause of death. The court of appeals affirmed.
A key question is whether the courts below were applying the correct definition of “producing cause,” in light of the Court’s decision in 2007 in Ford Motor Co. v. Ledesma, No. 05-0895 (more info), which formulated a new definition for causation in products-liability cases.