Forensic Evaluations Advance Scientific Theory: Assessing Causation of Harm


  • Jane Goodman-Delahunty
  • William E. Foote



abductive reasoning, causation of harm, compensatory damages, deductive reasoning, independent psychological examination, inductive reasoning, psychological injury, forensic evaluation, scientific theory, sexual harassment, workplace discrimination


As a basis for psychological theory construction, Stiles (2009) proposes connecting theory and practice in single, qualitative case studies as an alternative to group-experimental approaches. In this paper, we apply Stiles’ model to determine the causation of psychological injuries within individual cases in forensic settings—in other words, to develop a theory of causation within individual forensic cases. The specific example considered is that of a sexual harassment complainant. This is a case-based context in which the dimensions of the case study are framed by the referral questions of the retaining counsel and by the law in that jurisdiction. Forensic evaluators in sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination cases may use a three-stage model to assess the status of the sexual harassment plaintiff before the alleged harassment, during those events, and following harassment incidents. By examining the complainant’s status at these three times, the forensic examiner can more accurately develop a theory relevant to a particular complainant for determining legal causation and for distinguishing between symptoms or problems compensable by the defendant and those which are a result of other life events. Using Stile’s formulation, this model also demonstrates the use of deductive, inductive and abductive logic in the evaluation process to more effectively build and test theories relevant to the forensic issues.






Case Method