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Rust Consulting, Inc. v. Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns LLP

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 31, 2019

Rust Consulting, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns, LLP, Defendant.

          Michael R. Cunningham, Esq., Amy E. Erickson, Esq. and Gray Plant Mooty, counsel for plaintiff.

          Peter B. Schneider, Esq., William M. Hogg, Esq. and Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns LLP, counsel for defendant.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion for partial summary judgment by defendant Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns LLP (Schneider Wallace). Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the motion is granted in part.

         BACKGROUND

         This business dispute arises out of Schneider Wallace's alleged failure to pay plaintiff Rust Consulting, Inc. (Rust) for services rendered, and Rust's alleged failure to adequately render those services. The dispute centers on a mass tort litigation project that the parties worked on together from 2011-2014 (the Project).

         I. The Parties

         Rust is a Minnesota corporation specializing in consulting, call-center, data management, claims administration, and settlement services. Compl. ¶ 1; see also Supp. Blake Aff., ECF No. 80, ¶ 6. Schneider Wallace is a California law firm that represents consumers in mass tort cases involving defective medical devices and pharmaceutical products. Compl. ¶ 2; Supp. Blake Aff. ¶ 6.

         II. Master Services Agreement

         In early 2011, Schneider Wallace decided to expand its mass tort practice. Supp. Blake Aff. ¶ 4. Schneider Wallace asked Rust to provide selected client services related to that effort, and claims that Rust represented that it had substantial experience working on mass tort cases.[1] Id. ¶ 6; see also T. Schneider Decl. ¶ 5. There is some dispute as to the accuracy of Rust's representation.

         In early 2011, the parties drafted a Master Services Agreement (MSA), which incorporated a Statement of Work, to govern their rights and obligations with respect to the Project.[2] Blake Aff., ECF No. 21-1, ¶ 6. In the Statement of Work, Rust agreed to provide, among other things: client consulting services; call center services and scripting; training and staffing services; client website and portal design; data services; customized reporting; client notifications; document capture; settlement distribution and tax services; and lien resolution services. Blake Aff. Ex. A App'x A at 1-2. Schneider Wallace, in turn, agreed to pay Rust $2, 500 for each resolved claim and to pay hourly fees for certain services. Id. at 7-8. The Statement of Work establishes criteria to determine when a claim is resolved and requires that Schneider Wallace notify Rust within thirty days of such resolution. Id. The Project was expected to last four years and apply to 3, 000 or more cases. Id. at 7.

         On March 2, 2011, Steven Stein executed the MSA and Statement of Work for Schneider Wallace. Id. ¶ 7; see also Holland Aff. ¶ 9; Ex. 4. It appears that Rust did not sign the MSA or Statement of Work. Holland Dep. at 19:23-20:4; see also Blake Aff. Ex. A at 2; App'x A-1; Holland Aff. Ex. 4.

         The record shows that the first case under the Project began in May of 2011. Supp. Blake Aff. ¶ 9. Rust started billing Schneider Wallace for its work in the spring of 2012. Holland Aff. Ex. 2. On November 12, 2013, Todd Schneider, a Schneider Wallace partner, sent an email asking Rust to send him a copy of “our contract” so he would not have to find it in his file. Holland Aff. Ex. 5 at 3. In response, Rust indicated that it had an unsigned MSA and Statement of Work. Id. at 2. Todd Schneider did not respond to Rust's disclosure. See id. At no time before this litigation, did Schneider Wallace claim that the MSA or Statement of Work were not effective or binding on the parties.

         III. Disputed Charges

         Rust asserts that it provided adequate services under the MSA and maintained, among other things, a claims call-center, intake services, consulting, data management services, form processing, and reporting services for the Project.[3] Supp. Blake Aff. ΒΆΒΆ 18-21. It also asserts ...


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