Discovery -- 2015



Antero Resources Corp. v. Strudley   (Colorado Supreme Court)

Legality of "Lone Pine" Rulings before discovery

This case is about whether Colorado trial courts may use discretionary case management tools to limit the duration and cost of litigation by requiring plaintiffs to produce evidence essential to their claims after initial disclosures but before further discovery. Plaintiffs alleged that a hydraulically fractured natural gas well near their property contaminated their drinking water. The trial court in this case issued what is often referred to as a “Lone Pine” Order, requiring the plaintiff to identify the chemical that caused the injury; specify the disease, illness, or injury caused by the substance; and explain a causal link between exposure and the injury. Because plaintiffs could not articulate an injury caused by a particular chemical, the trial court dismissed the claim without requiring discovery. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holding that the court lacked authority to issue the order under the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure and identifying a policy that all conflicts should be resolved in favor of discovery.

The NAM’s brief provided a historical perspective on judicial case management and the growth of trial court discretion in Colorado. The case management tool at issue here serves to promptly resolve disputes by avoiding the very expensive and time consuming discovery process. The NAM argued that the “Lone Pine” ruling was entirely consistent with the history of active case management, the procedural underpinnings of Colorado law, and a host of decisions from other jurisdictions that have embraced similar goals.

On April 20, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled, over 1 dissent, that the state's rules of civil procedure do not allow a case management order that requires a plaintiff to present prima facie evidence in support of a claim before a plaintiff can demand full discovery about every issue in the case. The court found that the Colorado rules of procedure differ significantly from the federal rules, which provide a justification for Lone Pine orders to handle potentially difficult or protracted suits that may involve complex issues, multiple parties, difficult legal questions, or unusual proof problems. By contrast, the Colorado rules are generally for basic scheduling matters. It cited other parts of the rules that imnpose sanctions for non-meritorious claims, that allow for motions for summary judgment before trial, and that limit the breadth of discovery within clearly defined limits.


Related Documents:
NAM brief  (June 18, 2014)

 


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