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Broadus v. Correctional Health Partners, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 22, 2019




         Before the Court is Defendant Correctional Health Partners, Inc.'s (“CHP”) Motion for Award of Costs (the “Motion”) seeking costs as the prevailing party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d). (ECF No. 216.) Plaintiff John Michael Broadus (“Plaintiff”) opposes the Motion on the grounds that it is procedurally improper and deficient, and because costs are not warranted. (ECF No. 217.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”), alleged various violations of his constitutional rights by CHP as well as various CDOC employees and officials (“CDOC Defendants”). CDOC contracts with CHP to “review and provide prior authorization for medical care to be provided to CDOC inmates outside the internal CDOC medical system.” (ECF No. 114 at 2, ¶ 1.)

         In June 2017, CHP moved for summary judgment in its favor. (ECF No. 114.) After briefing was complete, the Court ordered Plaintiff to submit a surreply to address a document which CHP disclosed for the first time as an attachment to its reply brief. (ECF No. 156 at 1-2.) The Court subsequently granted CHP's Motion for Summary Judgment in February 2018. (ECF No. 162.)

         On July 3, 2018, following the resolution of Plaintiff's remaining claims against the CDOC Defendants, the Court issued an order directing final judgment in favor of CHP. (ECF No. 211.) While the order granting summary judgment as to CHP was silent on costs, the July 3, 2018 order directed Plaintiff and CHP to bear their own costs. (ECF Nos. 162 & 211.)


         Rule 54(d)(1) and D.C.COLO.LCiv R 54.1 govern the taxation of costs other than attorney's fees. “Rule 54 creates a presumption that the district court will award costs to the prevailing party.” Cantrell v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO, Local 2021, 69 F.3d 456, 459 (10th Cir. 1995). The burden is on the non-prevailing party to offer reasons to overcome the presumption in favor of the prevailing party. Id.; Rodriguez v. Whiting Farms, Inc., 360 F.3d 1180, 1190 (10th Cir. 2004).

         A. Procedural Issues

         As a preliminary matter, the Court notes the parties' disagreement about the proper procedure for challenging the Court's prior order directing the parties to bear their own costs. (See ECF No. 211.) Plaintiff contends that CHP was obligated to file both a motion for reconsideration instead of a motion for costs and, within fourteen days of entry of the judgment, a bill of costs pursuant to D.C.Colo.LCiv.R. 54.1. (ECF No. 218 at 2-3.) Indeed, litigants before the undersigned previously followed that procedure when contesting a denial of costs. Chimney Rock Pub. Power Dist. v. Tri-State Generation & Transmission Ass'n, Inc., 2014 WL 2619532, at *2, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80021, at *4-5 (D. Colo. June 12, 2014). CHP argues that Rule 54, not a motion for reconsideration under Rule 59 or otherwise, is the appropriate vehicle for seeking costs in this circumstance. (ECF No. 220 at 1-2.) It also contends that, where the availability of costs is disputed, it is proper to file a motion for costs prior to submitting a bill of costs. (Id. at 2.) See Grady v. Garcia, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74383, at *1 (D. Colo. May 30, 2012); Holderbaum v. United States, 589 F.Supp. 107, 113 (D. Colo. 1984).

         The Court need not resolve these procedural disputes. Even under the standard most favorable to CHP and least advantageous to Plaintiff-Rule 54's standard that a non-prevailing party must offer reasons rebutting the presumption in favor of awarding costs to the prevailing party-the Court agrees with Plaintiff that costs should not be awarded in this case because the litigation presented “close and difficult” issues and Plaintiff has limited financial means. See Rodriguez, 360 F.3d at 1190; Cantrell, 69 F.3d at 459.

         B. Award of Costs

         When a district court exercises its discretion not to award costs to a prevailing party, it must provide a valid reason. Cantrell, 69 F.3d at 459. A court may deny costs to a prevailing party when the party was only partially successful; the prevailing party was obstructive or acted in bad faith during the course of the litigation; damages are only nominal; the issues are “close and difficult”; or the costs sought are unreasonably high or unnecessary. Id.

         Two other factors may also play a role in a decision to deny costs. The indigence of a non-prevailing party may be a factor in denying costs, but is not necessarily dispositive. Jorgensen v. Montgomery, 2009 WL 1537958, at *1 (D. Colo. May 31, 2009); Basanti v. Metcalf, 2016 WL 879616, at *2 (D. Colo. Mar. 8, 2016) (finding that the court was within its discretion to deny an award of costs where plaintiff established her indigence); see also Rodriguez, 360 F.3d at 1190 (“Other circuits have recognized that the indigent status of the non-prevailing party and the presentation of issues that are close and difficult are both circumstances in which a district court may properly exercise its discretion under Rule 54(d) to deny costs to a prevailing party.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). In addition, one decision from this District has stated that “whether the court has specifically ...

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