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Antero Resources Corp. v. Strudley

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20078
Nos. 2015 CO 26, (Colo., 04/20/2015)

The Colorado Supreme Court held that state law does not allow a trial court to issue a modified case management order, such as a "Lone Pine" order, that requires a plaintiff to present prima facie evidence in support of a claim before the plaintiff can exercise its full rights of discovery under the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. Stemming from the unpublished decision Lore v. Lone Pine Corp., No. L-33606-85 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Nov. 18, 1986), a Lone Pine order is entered after initial disclosures but before discovery and requires plaintiffs in toxic tort cases to provide evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case of injury, exposure, and causation, or else face dismissal of their claims. Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(c) authorizes their use in complex federal cases to reduce potential burdens on defendants, particularly in mass tort litigation. In the instant case, a family filed suit against an energy company claiming they suffered physical injuries and property damage due to the company's natural gas drilling operations near their home. The company asked the trial court to require the family to present prima facie evidence that they suffered injuries attributable to the drilling operations, and the court issued a Lone Pine order. An appellate court reversed, holding that Lone Pine orders "are not permitted as a matter of Colorado law." The state's highest court agreed. Although the comments to Colo. R. Civ. P. 16 promote active judicial case management, the rule does not provide a trial court with authority to fashion its own summary judgment-like filter and dismiss claims during the early stages of litigation. Colorado law already provides sufficient protection against frivolous or unsupported claims and burdensome discovery under existing rules and procedural safeguards.