The defendants in the Colorado groundwater contamination case Strudley v. Antero Resources requested that the Colorado Supreme Court revisit the Appellate Court’s July 3, 2013 decision that vacated a trial court’s issuance of a Lone Pine order.
The trial court had issued the Lone Pine order and required the Plaintiffs to establish a causal connection between the defendants’ fracking activities and Plaintiffs’ claimed personal injuries. The trial court ultimately granted summary judgment based on Plaintiffs’ failure to procure admissable expert testimony on the issue of causation. The Appellate Court reversed, primarily on the grounds that Lone Pine orders are not generally recognized under the civil practice rules of that state.
The defendants argue that the Appellate Court’s decision was erroneous because, among other things, the trial court should have been afforded discretion to modify a traditional case management order and because there was precedent for the trial court’s order.
Generally, Lone Pine orders are often sought in complex toxic tort/environmental claims. They are effective case management tools in mass tort matters that can quickly get to the merits to complex causation matters. Experts with unreliable opinions can be quickly and relatively inexpensively dispensed with.
Courts evaluating whether to grant a Lone Pine order look to the the following factors: (1) the number of parties; (2) common claims/injuries/issues; (3) whether the claim is inherently suspect; and (4) the procedural posture of the case.
The Supreme Court will soon rule on the request and, if leave is granted, further briefing will be submitted from both sides of the issue. We will closely monitor this matter.
The impact from any future decision is yet to be determined, although defendants in other jurisdictions may similarly seek Lone Pine orders to defend against similar contamination claims.