• May 5, 2015


Update (May 5, 2015): In my original post on C.H. Robinson v. U.S. Sand, below, I noted the oddity that U.S. Sand had a little parade of outside lawyers and law firms serially quitting for non-payment (in connection with C.H. Robinson’s underlying case accusing U.S. Sand of non-payment, of course). Such sad processions are not uncommon but this one was particularly strange because a relatively large and prestigious local law firm was the third firm to take the case on for U.S. Sand after two other law firms had backed out due to non-payment.

Successor law firms often see the case in new ways, they have different strategies, and so on, but often they have little or no time. So a first order of business is to go to Court and ask for an extension of time. U.S. Sand and its third wave of lawyers took a swing but, for the most part, they missed and so it seems U.S. Sand struck out. (Here is the order denying the extension but for an allowance of 30 days of discovery…) Within the month, the case was quietly settled and dismissed…

Original post (November 21, 2014) (under headline: “Forewarned Is Four-Armed”): Here is a pattern that civil litigators see from time to time: company or individual gets sued and the defendant has a series of lawyers representing it, one after the other, starting with the legal rockstar, going to the B-list, down to the C-list, and so on. Sometimes the unfortunate defendants finally end up “pro se,” that is, in court without a lawyer. This is almost always because the unfortunate defendants’ resources are being depleted and such defendants are progressively tightening the belt on their legal fees.

(Corporations, on the other hand, are not allowed to appear “pro se,” that is at least until they bring a constitutional claim that this denies them their constitutional right to due process.)

I noted a recent case that seems to deviate from this pattern in a curious and inscrutable way.

C.H. Robinson, a major Minnesota employer and provider of transportation logistics, helped U.S. Sand, based in Texas to ship tons of “ceramic proppant” from China to the Bakken oil range in North Dakota. This was not an act of charity on C.H. Robinson’s part. C.H. Robinson had hoped and expected to be paid for its work. U.S. Sand allegedly did not pay C.H. Robinson and so C.H. Robinson sued U.S. Sand.

U.S. Sand, in turn, hired lawyers to defend against the claims C.H. Robinson brought against it but it apparently did not pay them either.

U.S. Sand, in turn, hired some more lawyers to defend against the claims C.H. Robinson brought against it but it did not pay them either.

This month, U.S. Sand has retained yet more other lawyers — in fact, one of the best law firms in the Twin Cities, and, undoubtedly more expensive than the predecessor smaller firm.

In light of the track record like U.S. Sand, do you think U.S. Sand’s latest lawyers required a retainer as a precondition to any engagement? How much of a retainer would be sufficient to hedge against the apparent risk of non-payment?


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