By William A. Ruskin
A Lone Pine Order is an innovative judicial case management tool that requires toxic tort plaintiffs to produce credible expert evidence to support their theory of causation (or another key component of plaintiffs' claim) prior to the commencement of pre-trial discovery. A Lone Pine Order is designed to weed out frivolous claims before defendants must invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and incalculable time and effort only to learn prior to trial that plaintiffs cannot establish a prima facie case. Both federal and state court judges have learned by experience that a Lone Pine case management order can end in their infancy baseless cases that would otherwise require an enormous expenditure of judicial time and resources. I have written about the use of Lone Pine Orders both on this blog and in journal articles.
The most recent successful use of a Lone Pine Order resulted in an order of dismissal in William G. Strudley v. Antero Resources Corporation, et al., a hydro-fracking toxic tort case pending in the District Court for Denver County in Colorado. On May 9, 2012, District Court Judge Ann B. Frick dismissed plaintiffs' action due to their failure to comply with the court's Modified Case Management Order ("MCMO"), which had been entered several months earlier. The MCMO required plaintiffs to provide the Court with sworn expert affidavits establishing the identity of the hazardous substances plaintiffs alleged caused their harm; whether these substances could cause the type of diseases and illnesses claimed by plaintiffs (general causation); the dose or quantitative measurement of the concentration, timing and duration of alleged exposure to each substance; an identifiable, medically recognizable diagnosis of the specific disease or illness for which each plaintiff claims medical monitoring is necessary; and a conclusion that each such disease or illness was caused by the alleged exposure (specific causation).
Click here to read the complete article in Focus on Oil, Gas, and Energy Law.
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