The Yale Law Journal

October 2019

The Lessons of Lone Pine

TortsCivil Procedure

abstract. Over the past three decades, Lone Pine orders have become a fixture of the mass-tort landscape. Issued in large toxic-tort cases, these case-management orders require claimants to come forward with prima facie injury, exposure, and causation evidence by a date certain—or else face an early and unceremonious dismissal. So far, the orders have been mostly heralded as an inventive and efficient way to streamline and expedite the resolution of complex cases. They are, many believe, an antidote to the assertion of dubious filings. Yet it’s not so simple. This Article identifies and analyzes various drawbacks associated with Lone Pine orders, including their inconsistent application, incompatibility with formal procedural rules, and insistence on using a binary screen to address a question that is, at bottom, insusceptible to a binary resolution. Given these problems, it ultimately concludes that courts ought to scale back their use of this potent procedural device.

But that’s just the half of it. Lone Pine orders are not just important because of what they do. They are also important because of where they sit: squarely at the intersection of broader currents that are quietly transforming contemporary civil litigation. These currents include the rapid and seemingly insatiable growth of multidistrict litigation, the durable embrace of managerial judging, the counterrevolution against federal litigation, the ever-more-preliminary disposition of claims, and both the formal and informal customization of procedural mechanisms. Weaving these seemingly disparate currents together, this study offers fresh insights to deepen—and, in places, complicate—our understanding of these profoundly influential phenomena.

author. Professor of Law and Deane F. Johnson Faculty Scholar, Stanford Law School. I am grateful to Amos Espeland, Alyssa Picard, Sam Pokross, and the researchers at the Stanford Law School library for indefatigable research assistance. I am also indebted to Elizabeth Chamblee Burch, Robin Effron, David Freeman Engstrom, John Freeman, Abbe Gluck, Mark Green, Alexi Lahav, Mark Lemley, David Marcus, Francis McGovern, David Noll, John Rabiej, Robert Rabin, Teddy Rave, Judith Resnik, Judge Jack Weinstein, Margaret Williams, John Fabian Witt, and Diego Zambrano, as well as participants at the Brooklyn Law School, Stanford Law School, and University of Virginia Faculty Workshops for helpful feedback on previous drafts. I am finally grateful to Samuel Issacharoff and the NYU Center on Civil Justice for kick-starting my research into this topic. All errors are mine alone.