Vukadinovich v. Hanover Community School Corporation et al
OPINION AND ORDER: The 410 BILL OF COSTS filed by Brian Vukadinovich is GRANTED AS MODIFIED. Vukadinovich is awarded costs of $6,212.04. Signed by Chief Judge Philip P Simon on 1/20/2017. (lhc)(cc: Plaintiff)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
HANOVER COMMUNITY SCHOOL
CORPORATION, ET AL.,
CAUSE NO. 2:13-CV-144-PPS
OPINION AND ORDER
A jury awarded judgment in favor of Plaintiff Brian Vukadinovich on one of
three claims after a five-day trial. Vukadinovich now seeks the taxation of costs in the
amount of $11,387.04. Defendants Hanover Community School Corporation and
Former Superintendent Carol A. Kaiser object to the award of costs on the ground that
Vukadinovich cannot be considered the prevailing party. In the event that those
arguments are unavailing, the Defendants also registered specific objections to some of
Vukadinovich’s costs. As detailed below, Vukadinovich’s requests for costs will be
granted, but with modifications.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) governs the award of costs. Costs other
than attorneys’ fees are allowed as a matter of course to the prevailing party unless the
Court directs otherwise. Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(1). While the district court has wide
discretion in awarding costs, Rule 54(d)(1) creates a “presumption in favor of a cost
award” as long as the costs are statutorily authorized. Cefalu v. Village of Elk Grove, 211
F.3d 416, 427 (7th Cir. 2000); see also Beamon v. Marshall & Isley Trust Co., 411 F.3d 854,
864 (7th Cir. 2005) (holding that “[t]here is a presumption that the prevailing party will
recover costs, and the losing party bears the burden of an affirmative showing that
taxed costs are not appropriate.”).
The Seventh Circuit has held that “the ‘prevailing party’ is the party who
prevails ‘as to the substantial part of the litigation.’” First Commodity Traders, Inc. v.
Heinold Commodities, Inc., 766 F.2d 1007, 1015 (7th Cir. 1985) (quoting Best Medium
Publishing Company, Inc. v. National Insider, Inc., 385 F.2d 384, 386 (7th Cir. 1967). In
determining whether a party prevailed as to the substantial part of the litigation, courts
look to the substance of the litigation, the relief sought, and the relief awarded, not
necessarily the number of claims on which a party prevailed. “[W[hen one party gets
substantial relief it ‘prevails’ even if it doesn’t win on every claim.” Slane v. Mariah
Boats, Inc., 164 F.3d 1065, 1068 (7th Cir. 1999) (finding that a plaintiff that prevailed on
two of four claims and got $225,000 from the jury prevailed within the meaning of Rule
54(d)(1)); see also Smart v. Local 702 Intern. Broth. of Elec. Workers, 573 F.3d 523, 525 (7th
Cir. 2009) (“A party prevails for purposes of Rule 54(d) when a final judgment awards it
Rule 54(d) allows a prevailing party to recover only those costs listed in 28 U.S.C.
§ 1920. Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U.S. 437, 441-42 (1987); Winniczek v.
Nagelberg, 400 F.3d 503, 504 (7th Cir. 2005). These costs include:
(1) Fees of the clerk and marshal;
(2) Fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts
necessarily obtained for use in the case;
(3) Fees and disbursements for printing and witnesses;
(4) Fees for exemplification and the costs of making copies of
any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use
in the case;
(5) Docket fees . . . ;
(6) Compensation of court appointed experts . . . .
28 U.S.C. § 1920. Before assessing costs, the court must determine (1) “that the expenses
are allowable cost items,” and (2) “that the amounts are reasonable and necessary.”
Northbrook Excess & Surplus Ins. Co. v. Procter & Gamble Co., 924 F.2d 633, 642 (7th Cir.
Defendants argue that Vukadinovich should not be awarded costs under Rule
54(d)(1) because he did not prevail “as to the substantial part of the litigation” because
he only prevailed on his Due Process claim, and the jury found against him on his age
discrimination and retaliation claims. [DE 420 at 1-2.] But the substance of this
litigation can be boiled down to a single question, “Was Vukadinovich treated fairly
when he was terminated?” The jury answered a resounding “NO” when it found in
Vukadinovich’s favor on his Due Process claim and awarded him $203,840.89 in
damages. So while Vukadinovich may not have won on all of his claims, “[b]y any
definition, he won the battle,” and is a prevailing party under Rule 54(d)(1). Slane, 164
F.3d at 1068.
Defendants also argue that Vukadinovich is not entitled to all of the costs listed
in the Bill of Costs because some are not included in those enumerated in 28 U.S.C. §
1920. [DE 420 at 2.] The two costs that the Defendants challenge are Vukadinovich’s
expert fees and copying costs. I will begin with the expert fees. While Defendants are
correct that Section 1920(6) only allows the district court to tax costs for the
compensation of court appointed experts, Section 1920(3) allows for costs for witness fees
that are specified in 28 U.S.C. § 1821. Together those sections authorize the award of
costs for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses of witnesses. See Majeske v. City of
Chicago, 218 F.3d 816, 825–26 (7th Cir. 2000).
Vukadinovich seeks $2,000 for costs associated with the report of his expert,
Anthony Sindone. [DE 410 at 3.] For the reasons I just discussed, these are not
recoverable because Sindone was not a court-appointed expert and the fees associated
with the preparation of an expert report are not included in those specified in 28 U.S.C.
§ 1821. Vukadinovich also seeks $500 for costs associated with Sindone’s trial
appearance. [Id.] But in 28 U.S.C. § 1821(b), “Congress placed a limit on the witness
fees authorized by Section 1920(3), providing that ‘[a] witness shall be paid an
attendance fee of $40 per day for each day’s attendance.’” T.D. v. LaGrange School Dist.
No. 102, 349 F.3d 469, 480-81 (7th Cir. 2003). Sindone testified for a brief time on one
day of the five day trial and Vukadinovich has provided no additional explanation for
the additional $460 he asks in expert witness appearance fees. For these reasons,
Vukadinovich is entitled to $40 in costs for Sindone’s attendance at trial.
The Defendants also challenge the $5,430 that Vukadinovich seeks in copying
costs. Under Section 1920(4), I may tax as costs “[f]ees for exemplification and the costs
of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in
the case.” 28 U.S.C. § 1920(4). This category includes copies attributable to discovery
and copies of pleadings, motions, and memoranda submitted to the court, but it does
not include copies made solely for the convenience of counsel. See McIlveen v. Stone
Container Corp., 910 F.2d 1581, 1584 (7th Cir. 1990); see also M.T. Bonk Co. v. Milton
Bradley Co., 945 F.2d 1404, 1410 (7th Cir. 1991) (“Like depositions, the underlying
documents need not be introduced at trial in order for the cost of copying them to be
I have wide discretion in awarding costs under Rule 54(d)(1) and I must exercise
my discretion and limit Vukadinovich’s request for copying costs. In his Bill of Costs,
Vukadinovich notes that his itemization of “Total # Copies” includes 1 copy for the
Court, 1 service copy, and 1 copy to Vukadinovich and appears to include every filing
by Vukadinovich in this protracted action. [DE 410 at 6.] This comes to a total of 21,720
pages at $.25 per page, for a total of $5,430 in requested copying costs. [Id. at 19.] This
number must be trimmed for two reasons. First, Vukadinovich cannot recover costs of
copies of filings that he made for himself. See McIlveen, 910 F.2d at 1584 (“The section
thus does not encompass [the prevailing party’s] copying of court filings for its own
use.”). Second, Vukadinovich filed numerous spurious pre-trial motions in this action
and should not be awarded for doing so. [See, e.g., DE 296; Motion for Leave to
Submit Supplementary Exhibit (requesting leave to file an inadmissible supplementary
exhibit well past the discovery and summary judgment deadlines; DE 302, Motion for
Leave to Submit Supplement Exhibit (requesting leave to submit a supplemental exhibit
containing documents created well after the close of discovery and after summary
judgment briefing was complete); DE 309, Motion for Sanctions (containing
unwarranted vitriolic allegations of impropriety against the defendants); DE 321,
Motion for Leave to Submit Supplemental Authority (requesting leave to submit noncontrolling supplemental authority well after summary briefing was complete)]. While
I have been patient with Vukadinovich throughout his litigation of this action because
of his pro se status, I must be reasonable and fair to all of the parties. For these reasons, I
will award Vukadinovich 50% of his total copying costs, which amounts to $2,715.
For the foregoing reasons, Vukadinovich’s Bill of Costs  is GRANTED AS
MODIFIED. Vukadinovich is awarded costs of $6,212.04.
ENTERED: January 20, 2017
_s/ Philip P. Simon_________________
PHILIP P. SIMON, CHIEF JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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