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Jurisprudence Commons

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Supreme Court

2019

Maurer School of Law: Indiana University

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Ordinary Causation: A Study In Experimental Statutory Interpretation, James Macleod Jul 2019

Ordinary Causation: A Study In Experimental Statutory Interpretation, James Macleod

Indiana Law Journal

In a series of recent split decisions interpreting criminal and tort-like legislation, the Supreme Court has purported to give statutory causation requirements their ordinary, plain meaning. Armed with dictionaries, examples from everyday speech, and commonsense intuitions, the Court’s majority has explained that statutory phrases like “because of” and “results from” entail but-for causation as a matter of ordinary usage. There’s just one problem: The Court’s majority (and the many state and federal courts following its lead) is wrong on the facts—specifically, the facts about how people ordinarily interpret, understand, and use causal language.

This Article considers ...