A federal district court in Pennsylvania cautioned against premature Lone Pine motions in a ruling that may be instructive for future lawsuits involving oil and gas exploration and production operations.  SeeRussell v. Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC, No. 4:14-cv-00148 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 2, 2015).  Plaintiffs, owners and residents of property situated near Defendant’s gas exploration and extraction operations, filed a complaint in state court alleging nuisance, negligence and negligence per se.  Defendants removed the case to federal court, and after filing their answer, renewed an earlier motion for a Lone Pine order.

The district court denied the motion without prejudice, concluding that it could not issue a Lone Pineorder without some discovery. The Court found a Lone Pine order—which requires a plaintiff to presentprima facie evidence supporting a claim prior to summary judgment—to be unjustified at the early stage of the lawsuit. The Court set a high bar for issuing the order, explaining that it “should issue only in an exceptional case and after the defendant has made a showing of significant evidence calling into question plaintiffs’ ability to bring forward” evidence of causation.  Id. at 5 (quoting McManaway v. KBR, Inc., 265 F.R.D. 384, 389 (S.D. Ind. 2009)).  Citing Defendants’ failure to identify any such evidence and the case’s pre-discovery posture, the Court denied the motion, leaving the door open for a Lone Pineorder in the future with a more developed record.