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Strudley v. Antero Resources Corp.

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20154
Nos. 12CA1251, (Colo. Ct. App., 07/03/2013)

A Colorado appellate court held that under state law, a trial court may not order plaintiffs in a toxic tort case to present prima facie evidence supporting their claims after initial disclosures, but before full discovery begins, or risk having their case dismissed. The case arose after homeowners filed suit against a company claiming negligence, negligence per se, nuisance, strict liability, and trespass related to physical and property injuries allegedly caused by the company's natural gas drilling operations within close proximity to their home. At the request of the company, the court ordered the homeowners to present prima facie evidence to support their claims before full discovery could commence, and the homeowners were unable to provide all the necessary information. As a result, the court dismissed all of the claims with prejudice, finding that they failed to prove a prima facie case, specifically in relation to causation. But such orders are not permitted as a matter of Colorado law. The circumstances surrounding the case were not shown to be so extraordinary as to require departure from the existing rules of civil procedure. Further, by entering the order the trial court unduly interfered with the homeowners' opportunity to prove their claims against the companies. The case was therefore reversed and remanded.