Tag Archives: Commercial Litigation

Can I Collect Attorney’s Fees in my Missouri Construction Dispute?

When I receive a phone call from a new potential client, the most common question that I get is:

“Can we collect attorney’s fees from the opposing party?”

The answer to this question is generally NO—unless, you have a contractual or statutory basis for collecting the same. In certain limited cases, the Courts may award fees on the basis of equity, but this exception is virtually non-existent from a practical standpoint.

Our law firm reviews and intakes a variety of different cases on an average day. Given our focus on construction litigation, we see cases involving issues arising on both residential and commercial construction projects, ranging from defective work claims to failure to pay claims to disputes arising from delay and timing issues to contractors or subcontractors disappearing with the money, among others.

Whether the potential client can recover attorney’s fees is incredibly important and can significantly change the leverage that the potential client has in the case because attorney’s fees can get very costly, depending on the case, and in some instances, the more complex cases can span a period of over several years, thus making the question of collecting attorney’s fees a critical piece of information.

We understand that it is also an important consideration for our potential clients to know their rights prior to getting involved in expensive construction litigation, and it is well-advised for all individuals to know their rights prior to undertaking an expensive construction project.

As noted above, the short answer is that Missouri does not allow for the recovery of attorney’s fees in construction disputes, except in a few select scenarios:

“Missouri follows the American rule which precludes recovery of attorney fees with these exceptions: (1) a statute or a contractual provision allows for their recovery; (2) the fees are incurred due to involvement in collateral litigation; or (3) equity demands it.” Marcomb v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 934 S.W.2d 17 (Mo. App. 1996).

Typically, parties to construction disputes are limited only to the first exception stated above: if a statute or contractual provision allows for the recovery of attorney’s fees. The collateral litigation exception involves a unique set of factual circumstances and, could conceivably be asserted if the stars align, but it is not commonly seen in construction litigation. The equitable exception is limited to very narrow circumstances, and Missouri courts are often reluctant to entertain utilizing such exception to allow recovery of fees because it would be such a drastic (or proactive) departure from the norm by the Court, which is not usually favored.

Accordingly, due to the fact that parties involved in construction litigation are typically limited to recovery of fees only if such recovery is provided for in the contract or pursuant to some applicable statute, this article will briefly discuss contracts and will go into a more in-depth discussion as to the governing statutory rights of parties involved in construction projects.

In order for a party to have a right to collect attorney’s fees based on a contract, there must be a provision in the contract specifically allowing for such recovery. Because construction contracts come in all shapes and sizes and can include innumerable provisions or language regarding the same, it is virtually impossible to cover every potential attorney’s fees provision that could exist in a contract.

One example includes a scenario where the contract allows for the recovery of fees “if the contractor retains counsel to collect on an outstanding balance that exists on the contract.” In this particular situation, the contractor can likely collect attorney’s fees if the contractor is successful in prosecuting a claim for collection of an outstanding balance. However, if the contractor is defending a claim in which the owner alleges defective work, then the contractor would not be able to recover attorney’s fees, even if the contractor is successful in defending the claim. As a sidebar, the contractor would be well-advised to have an experienced attorney craft a contractual provision that is broader and more encompassing to be able to collect attorney’s fees in the successful defense of a defective work claim.

The foregoing example poses a situation where the attorney’s fees provision is incredibly fact specific, and thus, it would be futile to try to cover the endless possibilities, speculating as to what the contractual language may be. However, there are some constants when analyzing recovery of attorney’s fees in construction disputes, and those arise from the applicable statutes.

Accordingly, the focus of this article is to explore various scenarios a contractor or owner may face where no applicable attorney’s fees provision is set forth in the contract governing the parties’ relationship. In an effort to do so, we will proceed with an analysis of a number of commonly seen scenarios involving construction projects.

We will start by looking at the statues (or Acts) that are the most applicable, when it comes to construction disputes, in an effort to provide preliminary information to the reader prior to undertaking the analysis.

1.     Missouri Prompt Payment Act (Public or Private)

As you may be able to gather from the name of the Act, the purpose of the Missouri Prompt Payment Act is to encourage prompt payment to those persons or entities providing work on a construction project.

The Missouri Public Prompt Payment Act is set forth under R.S.Mo. § 34.057 and requires payment to be made promptly and on a monthly basis, based on estimates provided by the contractor. R.S.Mo. § 34.057(1).

The Missouri Private Prompt Payment Act is set forth under R.S.Mo. § 431.180 and states: “[a]ll persons who enter into a contract for private design or construction work after August 28, 1995, shall make all scheduled payments pursuant to the terms of the contract.” R.S.Mo. § 431.180.1.

The Private Prompt Payment Act provides the remedy in the second paragraph, allowing for the recovery of actual damages, attorney’s fees, and 18% interest per annum on any outstanding balance:

“[a]ny person who has not been paid in accordance with subsection 1 of this section may bring an action in a court of competent jurisdiction against a person who has failed to pay.  The court may in addition to any other award for damages, award interest at the rate of up to one and one-half percent per month from the date payment was due pursuant to the terms of the contract, and reasonable attorney fees, to the prevailing party.” R.S.Mo. § 431.180.2.

There are certain limitations to the Missouri Private Prompt Payment Act, however, and we usually attempt to convey to clients the notion that the Private Prompt Payment Act only applies in the commercial context as opposed to those projects involving consumers. However, from a technical standpoint, that would be inaccurate, as the statute specifically states: “The provisions of this section shall not apply to contracts for private construction work for the building, improvement, repair or remodeling of owner-occupied residential property of four units or less.” R.S.Mo. § 431.180.3.

 

2.     Missouri Merchandising Practices Act

The Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”) is set of statutes which aims at protecting consumers. Typically, we describe the MMPA to clients as the equivalent of the Federal Consumer Protection Act but at a state level. The goal of the MMPA is to prevent businesses and larger entities from taking advantage of consumers through the use of deceptive, fraudulent, or other unfair business practices.

The operative statutes of the MMPA are set forth under R.S.Mo. § 407.020 and R.S.Mo. § 407.025. Specifically, R.S.Mo. § 407.020 states:

The act, use or employment by any person of any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, unfair practice or the concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise in trade or commerce…is declared to be an unlawful practice.

R.S.Mo. § 407.025.1 creates a private cause of action for consumers:

Any person who purchases or leases merchandise primarily for personal, family or household purposes and thereby suffers an ascertainable loss of money or property, real or personal, as a result of the use or employment by another person of a method, act or practice declared unlawful by section 407.020, may bring a private civil action in either the circuit court of the county in which the seller or lessor resides or in which the transaction complained of took place, to recover actual damages.

The same statutory section also allows for recovery of punitive damages and attorney’s fees: “The court may, in its discretion, award punitive damages and may award to the prevailing party attorney’s fees, based on the amount of time reasonably expended, and may provide such equitable relief as it deems necessary or proper.” R.S.Mo. § 407.025.1.

The language in the statute gives the Court broad discretion in awarding attorney’s fees to the prevailing party. However, there is substantial case law discussing the purpose of the statute is to protect consumers, so it is incredibly difficult for an entity (or non-consumer) to obtain an award of attorney’s fees, even if the entity/non-consumer prevails.

Analysis of Common Construction Dispute Scenarios

Below consists of a discussion of various scenarios that are regularly observed in the construction context. While the analyses are not comprehensive, the purpose of this article is to examine whether legal authority exists to recover attorney’s fees in the examples provided. In all of the scenarios, the contract does not allow for the recovery of attorney’s fees, as we know from above, the contract would provide a basis for recovery. The idea behind excluding the right to recover fees in the hypothetical scenarios is to conduct an in-depth examination of the parties’ statutory rights to collect fees on construction projects.

Scenario 1: Contractor performs construction work on residential property and seeks payment of outstanding balance owed

Tommy owns a construction company, TM Construction, LLC (“TM Construction”). TM Construction provides interior construction services on both residential and commercial projects. On this specific project, TM Construction is working on Sarah Johnson’s personal residence to provide framing work, hanging drywall, and painting. TM Construction’s contract with Sarah requires her to make payment of half of the job up front and the remaining amount will be paid at the completion of the project. Payment is made at the beginning of the job as contemplated, and TM Construction completes the work on the project. TM Construction demands payment from Sarah, but she refuses to make payment. The contract does not include any provision for the recovery of attorney’s fees, can TM Construction collect attorney’s fees?

The short answer is no. The contract does not afford TM Construction rights to recover fees. Further, TM Construction does not have any statutory basis to do so because the Missouri Private Prompt Payment Act does not apply to owner-occupied residential property of four units or less. The Missouri Public Prompt Payment Act and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act are wholly inapplicable to this situation.

Scenario 2: Contractor performs work on commercial building and seeks payment of outstanding balance owed

ABC Electrical, Inc. (“ABC Electrical”) is providing electrical rough-in work on a three-story office building owned by XYZ Developers, LLC (“XYZ Developers”). ABC Electrical performs the work and is paid according to the payment schedule set forth in the contract. The payment schedule is based on percentage of completion, which is supervised and monitored by an architect and the owner. The contract is silent as to collection of attorney’s fees.

Throughout the project, ABC Electrical is performing the work and the owner is making payment in accordance with the payment schedule set forth in the project. Once the Project is about 70% complete, the owner starts to withhold any further payment. ABC Electrical completes the job and the architect has no objection as to the work. ABC Electrical’s owner pleads with the owner of XYZ Developers, but XYZ Developers’ owner refuses to make the final payment.  Can ABC Electrical collect attorney’s fees?

The answer is that ABC Electrical has the right to collect attorney’s fees pursuant to the Missouri Private Prompt Payment Act. The party that prevails in the claim, ABC Electrical or XYZ Developers, will have the right to collect attorney’s fees. The award of attorney’s fees is at the discretion of the court, but typically the courts will award attorney’s fees if one of the parties is deemed to have prevailed.

Scenario 3: General Contractor hires Subcontractor who performs defective work on commercial project which General Contractor has to repair/replace

Exito Construction, Inc. (“Exito”) is a general contractor constructing a commercial building. S&S Exteriors, LLC (“S&S Exteriors”) is hired as a subcontractor to perform the masonry work on the building. The contract calls for monthly progress payments that correspond with the percentage of completion.  S&S Exteriors is more than halfway through with completion of the project when Exito notices and complains that the bricks are not being laid evenly and that the building is missing lintels that were specifically called for in the design and specifications. Exito withholds payment to S&S Exteriors until the issues with the masonry work are repaired. Exito has the right to withhold payment until the architect approves the work. S&S Exteriors refuses to make any repairs until payment is made.

After numerous exchanges of correspondence between counsel for the parties, Exito has no other option but to proceed with the hiring of another masonry subcontractor, J&J Masonry, Inc., to complete the work. J&J Masonry charges significantly more to complete the job than S&S Exteriors charged for the entire job. Exito wants to recover damages incurred for having to hire J&J Masonry to complete S&S Exteriors’ work. The contract is silent as to attorney’s fees.

Typically on large construction projects like that described above, the parties are sophisticated and usually have provisions in the contracts which would govern attorney’s fees. However, in this particular instance, there was no contractual provision accounting for recovery of fees. Can Exito recover attorney’s fees if it is successful in proving that S&S Exteriors was properly terminated from the project and that additional costs were incurred as a result of bringing J&J Masonry onto the project to complete the work?

The answer is generally no. Without a contractual provision, there is no legal authority from which to recover attorney’s fees, as the Missouri Private Prompt Payment Act does not govern this scenario because Exito is not bringing a claim that relates to payment.

However, the caveat is that S&S Exteriors would likely bring counterclaims in the lawsuit based on the Missouri Prompt Payment Act, and then the successful party would be entitled to collect attorney’s fees. This would be a situation where the opposing party opens the door to allowing for the recovery of attorney’s fees for Exito, if Exito is successful in its defense of the Prompt Payment Act claim and if the judge decides to award attorney’s fees.

Scenario 4: Contractor performs allegedly defective work on residential property and is defending homeowner’s claim of defective work

John Bruiser owns a remodeling company, Bruiser Construction, LLC. He typically remodels bathrooms, kitchens, and basements, and he’s been in business for 25 years. He meets a young couple, the Smiths, in their late 30s, early 40s, and Bruiser agrees to remodel their kitchen for a fixed price of $45,000.00, which includes the replacement of cabinets and flooring, as well as some painting, and minor drywall work. He also agreed to build the cabinets himself, which would be included in that price as well. There was no specific schedule, but he told the Smiths that he would have the project completed in no more than 3 months.

As construction progresses, the Smiths can tell that this project is going to take a lot longer than 3 months. The cabinets are not even fully constructed within the first 5 months, and the flooring is not lining up and is not level in certain areas. The contractor clearly did not know how to perform this job in a good and workmanlike manner. The project is going on 14 months, and the Smiths are irate. The contractor had bit off more than he could chew, and after the Smiths raised numerous complaints, Bruiser stopped answering their text messages or calls. He essentially disappeared.

Can the Smiths recovery attorney’s fees?

In this case, the question depends on whether the home on which Bruiser was performing work was the personal residence of the Smiths. If it was, then it also depends on whether the contract was merely negligent or committed some fraudulent, unscrupulous or unfair business practice. The simple failure to perform the work in a good and workmanlike manner is not sufficient. However, if there was something suspect going on with the contractor, there may be a statutory right to recover attorney’s fees pursuant to a claim based on violations of the MMPA.

Scenario 5: Contractor collects down payment for residential construction project and disappears with homeowner’s money

Randy Cognito (“Cognito”) is a fly by night contractor who performs roofing work. He is operating under the fictitious name (d/b/a) of Quality Roofing. Randy is a smooth talking salesman who convinces the homeowner to rebuild her deck for the “modest” fee of $42,000.00. The payment plan is to be structured into 3 installment payments of $14,000.00 each. The payments will be made (1) prior to Cognito commencing the work, (2) at the 50% completion point, and the last payment will be made (3) when the project is completed.

The homeowner wants to get the job moving because winter is quickly approaching, so she presses Cognito to start the work. Cognito explains to her that they cannot do anything until the first $14,000.00 payment is made in full. So, the homeowner writes a check and mails it to Cognito. Several weeks pass, and the homeowner does not hear anything from Cognito. Although, the check that she sent to him was cashed a few days after it was sent. The homeowner continues calling Cognito and never receives a response.

After numerous months pass without hearing from Cognito, the homeowner has a discussion with a neighbor who had the same thing happen to him. Cognito took his money and ran off with it.

Sadly, this situation happens all of the time. Can the homeowner collect attorney’s fees in this situation?

The answer is yes, but this article would neglect an important analysis if it did not briefly discuss throwing good money at bad. For every client who calls inquiring about this type of situation, our law firm discusses the possibility that we may never find the fraudulent contractor (Cognito) or that we might find him, but when we find him and take judgment, he has no money to collect on or is hiding assets.

These are all factors that the homeowner must take into consideration before proceeding against an unscrupulous or fraudulent contractor. However, after the homeowner has conducted an analysis and believes that it is in her best interests to proceed against the contractor, can she recover attorney’s fees?

The answer is: yes, there is a basis to seek recovery of attorney’s fees. The Missouri Merchandising Practices Act allows for the recovery of attorney’s fees when a contractor or company commits unlawful practices (i.e., deceptive, fraudulent, misrepresentations, false pretenses, omissions of material facts, etc.) against a consumer. In this case, Cognito duping the homeowner into paying $14,000.00 and then running off with her money would rise to the level of unlawful practices. This is a potential tool at the client’s disposal, but the client should also alert the Missouri Attorney General to prevent other unsuspecting victims from having to suffer through the same unfortunate and sad situation.

Scenario 6: Contractor begins residential construction project and changes pricing in middle of project

Sammy Samson (“Samson”) is a self-proclaimed general contractor. He pretty much does it all as far as interior repairs. He was hired by John Goodson to perform repairs and rehab work on a variety of different areas in the property, including drywalling, mudding, taping, and painting a bedroom; complete remodel of a kitchen; and replacement of shower enclosure in the bathroom. Samson prepared an estimate for Mr. Goodson, breaking down the project into 3 categories. Each scope of work had a fixed price for each portion. After Mr. Goodson reviewed the estimate, he liked the price and signed a contract with Samson, which reflected the fixed price amounts that Samson set forth in his estimate.

Samson began the project promptly and completed the drywalling, mudding, and taping portions of the work. However, shortly after beginning the painting, he submitted an additional invoice to Mr. Goodson, which was not included as part of the original estimate. He stated that the price of paint was rising due to tariffs and that Mr. Goodson owed him an additional $1,500.00, which must be paid before Samson will continue performing any additional work.

At this point, Mr. Goodson had already paid $5,000.00, and he feels like he’s being held hostage because he is stuck in the middle of the project and has to pay more amounts (that were not agreed to) in order to complete the work. Mr. Goodson does not feel like he’s being treated fairly, so he contacts the lawyer.

The first question Mr. Goodson asks after he tells his story is: “Can I collect attorney’s fees if we go after this guy?”
The answer is that there is a legal basis to support collection of attorney’s fees. The Missouri Merchandising Practices Act was designed to protect consumers from fraudulent billing practices like those which Samson was attempting to employ. The collection of attorney’s fees is at the discretion of the judge, but if Mr. Goodson can successfully prove his claim under the MMPA, then a judge is likely to award the same.

Conclusion

This article covers whether parties involved in construction litigation have the legal right to collect attorney’s fees.

Generally, the parties do not have a right to collect attorney’s fees on a construction project, unless there is a provision in the contract allowing the same or some statutory basis for collection of the same.

Missouri typically follows the American Rule:

“…which precludes recovery of attorney fees with these exceptions: (1) a statute or a contractual provision allows for their recovery; (2) the fees are incurred due to involvement in collateral litigation; or (3) equity demands it.” Marcomb v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 934 S.W.2d 17 (Mo. App. 1996).

Apart from a contractual basis, the two most common bases for collection of fees in a construction dispute are through the Missouri Prompt Payment Act and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

There are two types of Prompt Payment Acts in Missouri (public and private). However, for purposes of this article, the Prompt Payment Act’s effect is essentially covered in the following excerpt from the applicable statute: “[a]ll persons who enter into a contract for private design or construction work after August 28, 1995, shall make all scheduled payments pursuant to the terms of the contract.” R.S.Mo. § 431.180.1.

The Missouri Merchandising Practices Act is governed primarily by the following two statutory sections:

The act, use or employment by any person of any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, unfair practice or the concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise in trade or commerce…is declared to be an unlawful practice. R.S.Mo. § 407.020

Any person who purchases or leases merchandise primarily for personal, family or household purposes and thereby suffers an ascertainable loss of money or property, real or personal, as a result of the use or employment by another person of a method, act or practice declared unlawful by section 407.020, may bring a private civil action in either the circuit court of the county in which the seller or lessor resides or in which the transaction complained of took place, to recover actual damages. R.S.Mo. § 407.025.1

In an effort to apply the foregoing statutes/acts, we explored a variety of scenarios and provided an analysis as to whether attorney’s fees were recoverable in each situation. The scenarios were the following (see above for a full analysis of each):

Scenario 1: Contractor performs construction work on residential property and seeks payment of outstanding balance owed

Scenario 2: Contractor performs work on commercial building and seeks payment of outstanding balance owed

Scenario 3: General Contractor hires Subcontractor who performs defective work on commercial project which General Contractor has to repair/replace

Scenario 4: Contractor performs allegedly defective work on residential property and is defending homeowner’s claim of defective work

Scenario 5: Contractor collects down payment for residential construction project and disappears with homeowner’s money

Scenario 6: Contractor begins residential construction project and changes pricing in middle of project

Ultimately, there is no bullet proof strategy to ensure that your construction project will go smoothly 100% of the time. However, there are certain precautionary measures that may be taken to account for situations that commonly arise in the construction realm.

The construction contract that you sign should be fair and should account for situations that may pose a problem later down the road. Most importantly, the contract should include an attorney’s fees provision. That will often ensure that the parties to a construction dispute are more cautious about their actions, and, ultimately, it demands that they act with some level of accountability.

If you have any questions regarding your construction project, dispute or potential issue, or if you need a contract drafted or reviewed, please contact our law firm to assist you.

Daniel P. Gabris | Gabris Law, LLC

St. Louis Business Litigation Lawyer

Business and Commercial Litigation

Litigating a business dispute can often get messy.

In many instances businesses or commercial entities litigate over disputes or issues that often arise from the obligations or duties set forth in the contract between the parties.

These contracts often involve a lot of money, and in many cases a number of parties could be involved, especially when the transaction involves commercial entities.

We have sorted through some incredibly complex cases, and our attorneys know the procedure and the caveats of trying commercial litigation cases.

Our litigation attorneys represent a number of participants in the commercial context, including:

  • borrowers,
  • lenders,
  • suppliers,
  • vendors,
  • purchasers
  • collection agencies,
  • other law firms,
  • manufacturers,
  • limited liability companies,
  • distributors,
  • corporations
  • other commercial entities.

Success in Litigation Comes from Preparation

So how do our attorneys obtain a successful outcome for our clients?

While the outcome of a case can never be guaranteed, we understand the importance of preparing for trial and the advantages of using every tool at our disposal.

Long before the jury is called in, lawyers are battling intensely in the trenches.  This includes discovery strategy, motion work, and any other litigation tactics you can implement into the case.

The attorney who prepares the most and dominates the discovery and motion phases of the case lays the groundwork for success at trial.

Success in the motion phase of the litigation gives the attorney and his client the opportunity to better proceed with their case because they will be able to introduce evidence without a problem or even win the case summarily in some instances.

Regardless, the discovery phase and motion work allow the attorneys to create leverage for their client or require the opposing side to produce evidence or admissions that can change the posture of the case.

Discovery documents and information are used as evidence. 

The important and relevant information (and documentation) obtained during the discovery phase of the litigation is used at the trial.

Without conducting discovery, the parties may be left with some unwanted surprises at trial.  For that reason, it is important to leave no stone unturned by thoroughly propounding discovery on the opposing party.

Motion Practice

Motions give the attorney the ability to limit the other side’s ability to present evidence or to limit the issues the opposition plans to argue.

There are thousands of types of motions that can be filed throughout the course of a case. A good attorney will learn the background and preferences of the judge to determine whether a motion is worth filing and whether that motion will be fruitful.

In circumstances where the motion will merely annoy the judge or will not accomplish any real objective, the attorney is best advised to refrain from preparing and filing such a motion—for several reasons, it saves the client money, and the attorney does not go into the courtroom to argue a losing motion.

Some lawyers have the philosophy that if you lose one motion, you are now associated as a loser in the eyes of the judge.

Those same attorneys believe you should only proceed with a motion if you believe there is a high probability for success. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure in several other aspects of your case.

Conclusion

There are obvious advantages that accompany a knowledgeable and well-prepared attorney. As discussed above, adequate preparation and an aggressive, thought-out pre-trial strategy can be critical to the client’s success.

Our attorneys know how to prepare, and we’ll be intimately familiar with the facts and legal issues surrounding your case, and we’ll employ vigorous litigation techniques to defend the rights of your business.

If you have a dispute that arises out of a commercial transaction, and you need legal assistance, our attorneys are more than happy to advise or litigate, whatever the situation necessitates.

Please contact us today to discuss how to proceed.

Local Counsel St. Louis

Searching for Local Counsel? Our lawyers are available to provide representation in St. Louis County, St. Louis City, St. Charles County, and Jefferson County.

Regardless of your needs, we can most likely assist you with any local representation needs by attending your hearing or other matter.

Our attorneys have experience in various areas of the law including, but not limited to, civil litigation, contracts, subrogation claims, fraud, family law, construction law, probate, criminal, and a variety of other different areas of the law. If you need hearings covered in any of these areas or for any other matter, please contact us to discuss how we can assist by providing your local counsel needs.

Our attorneys have appeared in courts all over Missouri, and we always strive to project the highest level of professionalism and competency when handling matters as local counsel.  After a quick briefing about the facts and procedural posture of your case, our attorneys will appear on your behalf and carry out whatever task necessary to effectuate the desired outcome.

Pro Hac Vice Representation

While our attorneys provide litigation support for lawyers who are not licensed in Missouri, we also provide Pro Hac Vice services for out-of-state counsel.  Many attorneys who practice outside of Missouri may be unfamiliar with the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct.  However, Rule 4-5.5 governs the Unauthorized Practice of Law.

In essence Rule 4-5.5 states that any lawyer who is not licensed to practice law in Missouri may not hold themselves out as licensed in Missouri or establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction (Missouri) for the practice of law.

Rule 4-5.5 then lays out the Rules of Professional conduct relating to the practice of an attorney admitted Pro Hac Vice in Missouri, stating the following, in relevant part:

“A lawyer admitted and authorized to practice law in another United States jurisdiction and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction may provide legal services on a temporary basis in this jurisdiction that:

(1) are undertaken in association with a lawyer who is admitted to practice in this jurisdiction and who actively participates in the matter;

(2) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential proceeding before a tribunal in this or another jurisdiction if the lawyer or a person the lawyer is assisting is authorized by law or order to appear in such proceeding or reasonably expects to be so authorized;

(3) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in this or another jurisdiction if the services arise out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted and authorized to practice law and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission;

(4) are provided to the lawyer’s employer or its organizational affiliates and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission; or

(5) are not within Rule 4-5.5(c)(2), (c)(3), or (c)(4) and arise out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted and authorized to practice law.”

See the full text of Missouri Rule of Professional Conduct 4-5.5 at http://www.courts.mo.gov/courts/ClerkHandbooksP2RulesOnly.nsf/c0c6ffa99df4993f86256ba50057dcb8/84187ab9f9f1995486256ca600521226?OpenDocument

The Missouri Supreme Court Rule governing admission pro hace vice is 9.03 and generally states the following:

Any attorney, who is not authorized to practice law in Missouri, may be permitted to appear and participate in a particular case in any court or administrative tribunal of this state under the following conditions:

  1. The visiting attorney must be a member of the bar of another state, territory of the United States, or in the District of Columbia and must be in good standing
  1. The visiting attorney cannot be under suspension or disbarment in any state or territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia
  1. The receipt for the fee paid as required by Rule 01 must be included with the initial pleading filed, and a statement:

(a) Identifying every court of which he or she is a member of the bar;

(b) Certifying that neither the attorney nor any member of his or her firm is under suspension or disbarment by any such court; and

(c) Designating some member of the Missouri Bar having an office within the state of Missouri as associate counsel.

Local counsel (designate associate) must:

(a) Enter an appearance as an attorney of record;

(b) Sign all pleadings, briefs and other documents that are filed or served; and

(c) Attend all hearings unless excused by the judge or arbiter.

The visiting attorney must also agree to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct as set forth in Rule 4 and become subject to discipline by Missouri courts.

Missouri Pro Hac Vice Fee

The rule of Professional Conduct related to the fees owed for Pro Hac Vice admission is set out in Supreme Court Rule 6.01(j) and states the following in pertinent part:

Setting Bar Fee. The board of governors of The Missouri Bar is hereby authorized to fix the amount of the bar fee to be paid by each person licensed to practice law in this state. Such fee may be fixed at a different amount for each of the following categories of persons:…(3) Persons licensed but who neither reside, nor practice, nor are employed in this state; provided, however, that any person included in both categories (2) and (3) need pay only the lesser of the two amounts applicable.

The fee for 2019 is set forth in Missouri Supreme Court Rule 6.01(m) and states the following:

Category Low Income Legal Services Fee Bar
Fee
Advisory Committee Fee Total Annual
Enrollment Fee
(1) All others $30.00 $279.00 $101.00 $410.00

Familiarity with Local Venue and Courthouses

Our attorneys are familiar with the St. Louis Metropolitan area courts.  We regularly attend hearings and know the judges and procedure for handling a variety of different cases in any of the following counties:

  • St. Louis County (21st Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri)
  • St. Louis City (22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri)
  • Charles County (11th Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri)
  • Jefferson County (23rd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri)

We will gladly discuss your case with you and work with you to determine the best strategy to attack your case in any of the above-listed St. Louis venues.

Coverage in St. Louis Municipal, State and Federal Cases

In addition to covering hearings in the state court, we also offer coverage of cases in municipalities or federal courts such as the Eastern District of Missouri Federal District Court and the Eastern District of Missouri Bankruptcy Court.

The municipalities we cover run the gamut, but some of the most popular municipal courts include: Affton, Arnold, Ballwin, Bella Villa, Bellefontaine Neighbors, Bellerive, Bel-Nor, Bel-Ridge, Berkeley, Black Jack, Breckenridge Hills, Brentwood, Bridgeton, Calverton Park, Castle Point, Champ, Charlack, Chesterfield, Clarkson Valley, Clayton, Concord, Cool Valley, Country Club Hills, Country Life Acres, Crestwood, Creve Coeur, Crystal City, Dellwood, Des Peres, Edmundson, Ellisville, Eureka, Fenton, Ferguson, Flordell Hills, Florissant, Frontenac, Glasgow Village, Glencoe, Glendale, Glen Echo Park, Grantwood Village, Greendale, Green Park, Grover, Hanley Hills, Hazelwood, Hillsdale, Huntleigh, Jennings, Kinloch, Kirkwood, Ladue, Lakeshire, Lemay, Mackenzie, Manchester, Maplewood, Marlborough, Maryland Heights, Mehlville, Moline Acres, Normandy, Northwoods, Norwood Court, Oakland, Oakville, Olivette, Overland, Pagedale, Pasadena Hills, Pasadena Park, Pine Lawn, Richmond Heights, Riverview, Rock Hill, Sappington, Shrewsbury, Spanish Lake, St. Ann, St. John, St. Louis County, Sunset Hills, Sycamore Hills,Town and Country, Twin Oaks, University City, Uplands Park, Valley Park, Velda City, Velda Village Hills, Vinita Park, Vinita Terrace, Warson Woods, Webster Groves, Wellston, Westwood, Wilbur Park, Wildwood, Winchester,  and Woodson Terrace.

If you have a specific matter requiring local counsel coverage in any of the above municipalities or in the Federal District Courts in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, please contact us to discuss arrangements.

Our Policy When Serving as Local Counsel

We respect our business relationships, and our policy is to never solicit clients for other lawyers or law firms for whom we provide local counsel services.

We look forward to developing strong, ongoing relationships with you.

Click here to arrange local counsel via e-mail.

Once we receive an e-mail from you, our goal is to confirm or deny coverage of your case within an hour or two of receipt of the same. 

St. Louis Commercial Litigation Attorney

Scales of Justice in the Boardroom

Litigation Lawyer

A litigator is a special breed of attorney. Litigation is the most adversarial, intense experience one can face when dealing with the law. That’s why litigators are so special.

To be a litigator you have to be forged through the rigors of heavy motion work and through the trial process.

While the trials you’ve seen on television or movies may seem interesting and exciting, the reality is that they are intense, stressful, and the slip of a tongue can cost thousands to millions of dollars.

But there are other things that can cost or save you thousands to millions of dollars also, and those things are motions.

Good Trial Lawyer v. Good Litigation Attorney

Litigation is not just arguing trials. True litigation attorneys have the ability to craft motions in a manner that limits the other side from asserting claims or defenses. The motion work can, at times, limit their recovery or narrow their case to prevent the admission of certain evidence or preclude damaging testimony.

A lawyer can file various motions throughout the various phases of the case to strengthen your position and limit unwanted evidence.  That’s why it’s important to have a competent St. Louis litigation attorney who can help you file the right motions to protect your rights.

This differs from a good trial lawyer who merely walks into the trial without knowing the contours of the landscape and simply “wings it.”

A good litigation lawyer knows the issues that may arise, is prepared to argue each of these issues with case law or statutes backing his position, and limits many of these issues from ever touching the jurors’ ears, all before the trial even begins.

To carry out such precision in the litigation game, the lawyer has to act with deliberated moves and a well thought-out strategy.

We have attorneys who are trained in doing that.

We represent many corporate clients including privately held companies, publicly traded companies, as well as individuals involved in a number of commercial litigation disputes.

We are capable of representing the foregoing entities and individuals in a number of settings and venues in Missouri, including in arbitrations, in state courts, in federal courts, and in front of administrative agencies.

With the ever changing political and legal environment, our attorneys rely on their technological and business acumen to assist and guide you in taking the necessary steps to protect your most prized possession–your business and the assets you have worked so hard to acquire.

Commercial litigation can be the gateway through which your business thrives or dies. That’s why it is important to find and hire an experienced commercial litigation attorney.

You can trust our attorneys to represent you and your company in a variety of different matters whether you are dealing with a contractual dispute, construction defect claim, partnership dispute, or other serious matter.

We have a wealth of experience litigating for and against commercial entities.

If you’re involved in commercial litigation and need an attorney, we have the resources to provide you an expeditious and competent defense, so you can spend your time focusing on your business and not on litigation.

Call one of our St. Louis Litigation Attorneys today!