Trials & Litigation

'You are not dicking around with a rookie;' lawyer's deposition 'churlishness' is memorialized

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A federal magistrate judge has declined to impose a monetary sanction on a Montana lawyer who told opposing counsels that they are “not dicking around with a rookie” and suggested that he could get on a plane to personally punch one of them in the head.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Clare Hochhalter of the District of North Dakota didn’t require lawyer Todd Alan Stubbs or his client to pay attorney fees incurred by the opposing lawyers in the deposition, which ended when the client fired Stubbs during a break. But Hochhalter published several of Stubbs’ deposition rants in his Dec. 15 order, Law360 reports.

“Stubbs has endured the indignities of being fired by plaintiff in the middle of a deposition and of having his churlishness and general lack of professionalism memorialized for posterity in this order,” he wrote. “This is sanction enough.”

Stubbs appeared in the October deposition by telephone while representing Braxton Avery, a Texas oil well worker who was injured in 2014 when a well cap blew off and struck him in the head, according to Law360. The defendants—the contractor that employed Avery and Equinor Energy—were each claiming that the other was liable.

In one deposition exchange, Stubbs contended that opposing lawyer John Hughes of Meagher & Geer failed to lay the groundwork for a question about another company that did work at the site.

“Mr. Stubbs: John, you have made your job really hard for yourself. No, no, no. I want to know if you are going to say—and if you are going to say that another contractor did some treatment, then you better lay some foundation, dude. You are f- - -ing, no, no, no. You are screwing with a trial lawyer. OK. What’s your foundation?

Mr. Hughes: Let me back up. You know what.

Mr. Stubbs: No, no, no, no. I want to know your foundation. I want to know your documents. I want to know everything.

Mr. Hughes: I don’t have any.

Mr. Stubbs: You are screwing with the wrong dude, man.

Mr. Hughes: Todd.

Mr. Stubbs: No. John, John, John. I like you. We get along great. But if you want to do trial, let’s do trial. Now, if you’re going to ask my client a question about some other company that did treatment, then you set the foundation.

Mr. Hughes: All right.

Mr. Stubbs: No, no, no. Listen to me. You are in a lion’s den, man. I’m telling you, if you are going to say that there was some other company that was involved, you give me the document. Get the document out. Give me the Bates number out.

Mr. Hughes: I don’t have any, Todd.

Mr. Stubbs: No, John. Then don’t ask my client that question.

Mr. Hughes: All I asked.

Mr. Stubbs: No, no, no, no. If you are going to ask my client a question, OK, and it has to do with evidence, and it has to do with something else, some other company or whatever. John, get your evidence out where you have foundation problems. John, this is a problem for all you guys out there. Are you guys all listening?

Mr. Hughes: Oh, yeah.

Mr. Stubbs: You are not dicking around with, you know, you are not dicking around with a rookie. I’m going to bury you guys.”

This followed when Hughes asked Avery whether he went to a different site.

“Mr. Stubbs: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s stop right there. How are you to assume that Braxton went to another site?

Mr. Hughes: I will ask him.

Mr. Stubbs: No. No. Let’s talk about the site where he got hurt. OK. The other sites he went to, whether he went to them or not, it’s irrelevant. Let’s talk about the site that your representative f- - -ed up on. OK. Let’s talk about that. And, you know, I’ve got to tell you something, man, you know, my client, he’s lucky, he’s lucky to be alive. Did you guys get that?

Mr. Hughes: Yeah, got it.

Mr. Stubbs: No, no, no. I don’t think you get it. Have you ever like, do you know, have you ever like worked as a laborer?

Mr. Hughes: Yes.

Mr. Stubbs: All right. What about all you other big dudes on the phone right now?

Mr. Hughes: Say, Todd, the lawyers aren’t being deposed.”

Another exchange happened after Hughes wanted to show photographs from an incident report by an Equinor Energy predecessor company, Statoil.

Stubbs protested that he didn’t sue Statoil and said: “Can I like fly up to North Dakota and just f- - -ing hit you right in the middle of the forehead, with an uppercut? And that doesn’t even come close to what my client went through. How about that? How about that?”

Avery didn’t respond to an email seeking comment that was sent to his Manhattan, Montana, law firm, Stubbs Law.

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