Hamilton v. Russell et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion for bill of costs [Doc. # 190 ] is granted in part and denied in part. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall tax costs against defendant Margaret Huff in the total amount of $626.20 for fees of the Clerk, fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts, and docket fees. Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 7/27/17. (JAB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JAMES J. HAMILTON,
BROC GREMMINGER, et al.,
Case No. 4:14-CV-766 (CEJ)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on plaintiff’s bill of costs pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1920.
Defendant Margaret Huff has responded in opposition and the
issues are fully briefed.
Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that Huff was
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need, in violation of the Eighth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. At trial, the Court granted plaintiff’s
motion for judgment as a matter of law at the close of the case. The jury awarded
plaintiff nominal damages in the amount of one dollar. On June 15, 2017, plaintiff
timely filed the bill of costs, seeking $2,720.60 in litigation costs. See E.D. Mo. L.R.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) grants district courts “broad discretion”
over the award of costs to prevailing parties. Little Rock Cardiology Clinic PA v.
Baptist Health, 591 F.3d 591, 601 (8th Cir. 2009). But, there are limits on this
discretion – “such costs must be set out in 28 U.S.C. § 1920 or some other
statutory authorization.” Smith v. Tenet Healthsystem SL, Inc., 436 F.3d 879, 889
(8th Cir. 2006). Under § 1920, a judge or clerk of a court may tax as costs:
(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
under section 1923 of this title; (6) compensation of court appointed
experts, compensation of interpreters, and salaries, fees, expenses,
and costs of special interpretation services under section 1828 of this
28 U.S.C. § 1920(1)-(6).
Under Rule 54(d) a prevailing party is “presumptively entitled to recover all
of its costs.” In re Derailment Cases, 417 F.3d 840, 844 (8th Cir. 2005). The
burden is on the losing party to demonstrate that a request is inequitable. Concord
Boat Corp. v. Brunswick Corp., 309 F.3d 494, 498 (8th Cir. 2002). Incurred costs
must, however, be “‘necessarily obtained’ for use in the case.” Zotos v. Lindbergh
Sch. Dist., 121 F.3d 356, 364 (8th Cir. 1997).
Plaintiff claims several items in his bill of costs, including (1) $350.00 for fees
of the Clerk, (2) $251.20 in fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts
necessarily obtained for use in the case, (3) $2,094.40 in fees for exemplification
and the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily
obtained for use in the case, and (4) $25.00 in docket fees under 29 U.S.C. § 1923.
Huff argues that plaintiff is not the “prevailing party” under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 54 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(f)(1) because the jury decided only the
issue of damages and not the issue of liability. She cites to Farrar v. Hobby, 506
U.S. 103 (1992) in support of her argument. The defendant’s position is
inconsistent with Eighth Circuit law as evidenced by the decisions in Jones v.
Lockhart, 29 F.3d 422 (8th Cir. 1994) and Muhammad v. Lockhart, 104 F.3d 1069
(8th Cir. 1997). Jones affirmed a district court’s award of fees to a plaintiff in a
prisoner civil rights action where the jury awarded plaintiff $1.00 in compensatory
damages and $1.00 in punitive damages. Id. Applying the logic of Justice
O’Connor’s concurring opinion, the court in Jones held that Farrar did not preclude
entry of judgment for fees. Id. at 424. Muhammad affirmed the award of attorneys’
fees, costs, and expenses where a civil rights plaintiff obtained a nominal award of
one dollar. 104 F.3d 1069 (8th Cir. 1997).
Here, plaintiff prevailed as a matter of law on his constitutional claim and
thereby accomplished a public goal. Whether the determination that Huff was
deliberately indifferent was made by the Court or by the jury is immaterial.
Accordingly, plaintiff is a prevailing party who may recover costs.
Objections to Copying Costs
Huff challenges plaintiff’s request for copying costs. Specifically, she
contends that plaintiff’s request for copies in the amount of $2,094.40 is “baseless,
excessive, and clearly outside the scope of compensable, taxable costs under 28
U.S.C. § 1920(4).” [Doc. #200 at 4]. Huff also argues that these costs were not
Last, Defendant Huff argues that plaintiff had the option to
receive paper copies “at [d]efendants’ expense and chose not to.” Id. at 6.
Plaintiff states that he expended $2,094.40 for “photocopies of documents
sent/received through 6/15/17.” [Doc. #190-1 at 2]. Plaintiff’s description shows
that part of the costs includes documents “sent” to defendant Huff, which are not
taxable under Section 1920(4). Hannan v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., No. 2:13-CV00053 (ERW), 2014 WL 5148187, at *5 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 14, 2014). Moreover, the
Court agrees with Huff that plaintiff has provided so little detail that the Court
cannot determine whether the copies were necessarily obtained for use in the case.
See Finan v. Good Earth Tools, Inc., No. 4:06-CV-878 (CAS), 2008 WL 1805639, at
*11 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 21, 2008) (reasoning that “[a]mounts sought for copy expenses
must be documented or itemized in such a way that the Court can meaningfully
evaluate the request.”) Accordingly, the Court will not tax defendant Huff for
$2,094.40 in copy costs. See Graham v. Hubbs Mach. and Mfg., Inc., o. 4:14-CV419 (CEJ), 2016 WL 3476708, at *2 (E.D. Mo. June 27, 2016).
Defendant Huff presents no other specific objections to plaintiff’s requests,
and the Court finds that those costs are allowable.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for bill of costs [Doc. #190]
is granted in part and denied in part.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall tax costs against
defendant Margaret Huff in the total amount of $626.20 for fees of the Clerk, fees
for printed or electronically recorded transcripts, and docket fees.
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 27th day of July, 2017.
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