Colorado Appeals Court Reverses Trial Court Lone Pine Order

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In a recent appellate decision from Colorado, the Colorado Court of Appeals in Strudley v. Antero reversed the trial court’s issuance of a Lone Pine order, as well as the Court’s subsequent summary judgment decision predicated on plaintiffs’ failure to prove a causal nexus between their personal injury claims and nearby fracking activities.

Specifically, the three panel appellate court ruled that the issuance of a Lone Pine order was improper under the Colorado rules of civil procedure.  The Court reviewed various federal and state cases from other jurisdictions that permitted Lone Pine orders in toxic tort matters.  The court also noted that some courts refused to issue Lone Pine orders “where existing statutes, rules, and procedures provide sufficient protection against frivolous or unsupported claims and burdensome discovery.”

In the end, the Court concluded that the Strudley case was “distinguishable from those cases in which Lone Pine orders have been issued” because, in other cases, “substantial discovery occurred.”  Moreover, the Court held that the “case is not as complex as cases in other jurisdictions in which Lone Pine orders were issued.”    The court further rejected the lower court’s analysis and the defendants’ arguments that the plaintiff’s claims presented complex toxic tort analysis that is entirely dependent on expert testimony.   Therefore, the Court saw “no reason why existing procedural mechanisms should be supplanted by ad hoc procedures not otherwise provided for under Colorado law.”

Plaintiff’s counsel was subsequently quoted by the media as stating, “Obviously, we are thrilled that our clients will now have a chance to obtain the discovery necessary to support their claims and as a result we trust they will ultimately have their day in court.”

It is unclear at this juncture whether the defendants will appeal the decision.

 

 

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