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Sedillo v. Long View Systems Co. USA

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 20, 2019



          Kristen L. Mix, United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Review of Clerk's Taxation of Costs [#89][1] (the “Motion”). Plaintiff filed a Response [#92] in opposition to the Motion [#89], and Defendant filed a Reply [#96]. The Court has reviewed the Motion, the Response, the Reply, the entire docket, and the applicable law, and is sufficiently advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#89] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff initially asserted seven claims against Defendant, his former employer, requesting $3.5 million in damages. See generally Compl. [#1]. In essence, the claims centered on discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliatory termination from his employment. See generally Id. at 1. The Court dismissed one of Plaintiff's claims on summary judgment, see [#46], and the jury found for Defendant on four other claims, See Minute Entry [#46]; Verdict Form [#73]. Ultimately, Plaintiff succeeded at trial with respect to two hostile work environment claims and was awarded $50, 000 in emotional damages. See Verdict Form [#73]. After the trial, the Clerk of Court awarded Plaintiff $11, 273.68 in costs. Costs Taxed [#85]. In the present Motion [#89], Defendant argues that the costs awarded to Plaintiff by the Clerk of Court are excessive and requests that the Court reduce them.

         II. Standard

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(1) provides that: “[u]nless a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs-other than attorney's fees-should be allowed to the prevailing party.” “As is apparent from the language of Rule 54(d)(1), ‘the determination of who qualifies as a prevailing party is central to deciding whether costs are available.'” Barber v. T.D. Williamson, Inc., 254 F.3d 1223, 1233-34 (10th Cir. 2001) (quoting Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 2667). Generally, “‘the litigant in whose favor judgment is rendered is the prevailing party for purposes of Rule 54(d)(1).'” Id. at 1234 (quoting Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure, § 2667) (brackets omitted).

         “An award of costs falls within the broad discretion of the district court, which is bounded by two principles: the prevailing party is presumptively entitled to costs and, if costs are denied, the district court must set forth a ‘valid reason' for the denial.” Christos v. Halker Consulting, LLC, No. 16-cv-01838-PAB-NYW, 2019 WL 3778278, at *10 (D. Colo. Aug. 12, 2019) (citing Cantrell v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO, Local 2021, 69 F.3d 456, 458-59 (10th Cir. 1995) (en banc)). However, despite the presumption that a prevailing party is entitled to costs, the “prevailing party bears the burden of establishing the amount of costs to which [he] is entitled.” In re Williams Sec. Litig.-WCG Subclass, 558 F.3d 1144, 1148 (10th Cir. 2009) (emphasis added) (citing Allison v. Bank One-Denver, 289 F.3d 1223, 1248 (10th Cir. 2002)). “The amount a prevailing party requests ‘must be reasonable.'” Id. (citing Callicrate v. Farmland Indus., 139 F.3d 1336, 1339 (10th Cir. 1998)). “Once a prevailing party establishes [his] right to recover allowable costs, however, the burden shifts to the ‘non-prevailing party to overcome' the presumption that these costs will be taxed.” Id. (quoting Rodriguez v. Whiting Farms, Inc., 360 F.3d 1180, 1190 (10th Cir. 2004)).

         Where “neither side entirely prevailed, or when both sides prevailed, or when the litigation was thought to be the result of fault on the part of both parties, some courts have denied costs to both sides.” Hach Co. v. In-Situ, Inc., No. 13-cv-02201-CBS, 2016 WL 9725765, at *17 (D. Colo. Nov. 22, 2016) (quoting Barber, 254 F.3d at 1234-35); see also Howell Petroleum Corp. v. Samson Res. Co., 903 F.2d 778, 783 (10th Cir. 1990) (“The court was within its discretion to refuse to award costs to a party which was only partially successful.”); Rogers v. United States, No. 97-2666-JWL, 2000 WL 382015, at *2 (D. Kan. Mar. 17, 2000) (denying costs to both sides because both were partially successful). If the Court exercises its discretion to not award costs, the Court must state a valid reason. Zeran v. Diamond Broad., Inc., 203 F.3d 714, 722 (10th Cir. 2000).

         III. Analysis

         Defendant presents two primary arguments: (1) Plaintiff's limited success at trial means that Plaintiff's costs should be denied or offset, and (2) Plaintiff has not sufficiently justified the number of copies he made or his copy rate of $0.25 per page. Motion [#89]; Reply [#96]. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         A. Limited Success

         Defendant contends that Plaintiff's costs are unreasonable because of Plaintiff's limited success on his claims. Motion [#89] at 4-5. Plaintiff responds that, because he prevailed on two of the seven claims, he is the prevailing party and therefore is entitled to costs. Response [#92] at 4. Plaintiff asserts that forcing him to pay for costs “would have a chilling effect on civil rights attorneys' willingness to . . . expend resources fighting against discrimination.” Response [#92] at 4.

         As noted, the Court may reduce costs when a party is only partially successful. Christos, 2019 WL 3778278, at *10. Nevertheless, partial success does not automatically overcome the presumption that the prevailing party is entitled to costs; rather, it merely opens the door for the non-prevailing party to “overcome [that] presumption.” See Rodriguez, 360 F.3d at 1190 (citing Cantrell, 69 F.3d at 459).

         Plaintiff has met his initial burden by showing he succeeded at trial on some of his claims and by subsequently providing his Bill of Costs [#78] and supporting documentation [#78-1] to the Court. See Response [#92] at 5; Costs Taxed [#85] at 1-4. The burden therefore shifts to Defendant to overcome ...

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