After spraying some EcoSmart Organic Pest Control to the
foundation and interior of his house, Velio Malozzi went with his
wife to a local Italian restaurant. Later that evening, Malozzi
experienced nausea, an abnormally high heart-rate and burning in
his chest, stomach and throat. Things didn't get better, and
Malozzi was diagnosed with laryngeal edema arising from reflux and
some other gross things involving phlegm. The doctors concluded
that the cause of all of this was 'inhaled chemicals',
specifically pesticides. Malozzi sued the manufacturer of the
pesticide he had used on the fateful day, alleging that peppermint
oil in the product had caused his symptoms: Malozzi v EcoSmart
Technologies Inc (EDNY, 31 May 2013).
Feuerstein J reviewed the academic literature on epidemiological
causation, starting with Bradford Hill's seminal article on the
subject from 1965. The judge considered the likely dose and
duration of the peppermint oil inhaled by the plaintiff, the
temporal period between inhalation and the onset of adverse effects
and other potential causes, all with the aid of expert testimony.
The small amount of peppermint oil in the product was, on balance,
unlikely to have caused Malozzi's symptoms (which lasted
several months), in light of a number of previous episodes of
reflux after meals. The plaintiff failed to establish that he
suffered from anything more than a nasty kind of indigestion
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