Lone Pine Orders Called Into Question In Colorado

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A Lone Pine order is a case management tool often utilized by courts in complex multi-party toxic tort cases to organize plaintiffs’ claims and to focus the parties on key issues early in the litigation. A Lone Pine order typically requires plaintiffs early in a case to present some basic evidence supporting his or her injuries and to produce some evidence of causation. Lone Pine orders take their name from a 1986 decision out of New Jersey, Lore v. Lone Pine Corp. In the Lone Pine litigation, multiple plaintiffs sued multiple defendants for personal injuries and property damages arising out of a leaching landfill. In order to get its hands around the case, the court entered a case management order requiring the plaintiffs to provide 1) the facts of his or her exposure to the alleged toxic substances from the Lone Pine landfill, and 2) reports of treating physicians or medical experts supporting each plaintiff’s claim of injury and causation. When the plaintiffs failed to comply with the case management order, the court dismissed the claim. Since 1986, many federal and state courts have utilized Lone Pine orders to streamline and better organize toxic tort cases.

Recently in Colorado, the trial court in Strudley v. Antero Resources Corp., et al. issued a Lone Pine order in a case filed by plaintiffs for alleged personal injuries and property damages arising out of fracking. The plaintiffs did not comply with the trial court’s Lone Pine order and the court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice. On appeal, the reviewing court reversed the dismissal and held that the trial court abused its discretion. The appellate court concluded that the trial court’s Lone Pine order “interfered with the full truth seeking purpose of discovery” and such orders are not permitted as a matter of Colorado law before discovery has commenced. Such a ruling would significantly limit the use of Lone Pine orders, at the very least for purposes of toxic tort cases filed in Colorado.

The defendants in Strudley have requested that the Colorado Supreme Court review the lower court’s decision. A ruling from the court is expected shortly.  If the court grants review, additional briefs will be submitted by all parties. We will continue to monitor the litigation.