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Santiago v. Lindvall

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

July 14, 2014

GUILLERMO SANTIAGO Plaintiff,
v.
PETER L. LINDVALL, Defendant.

Submitted: May 7, 2014

Upon Defendant Peter L. Lindvall's "Motion for Costs."

Michael W. Modica, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Peter L. Lindvall, Bear, Delaware, pro se, Defendant.

ORDER

Richard R. Cooch, R.J.

This 14th day of July 2014 it appears to the Court that:

1. Defendant Peter Lindvall ("Defendant") seeks reimbursement for costs incurred during the course of a jury trial, requested by the Defendant, in the Superior Court. This case, stemming from an altercation between Defendant's and Plaintiff's dogs, [1] was originally heard in Justice of the Peace Court. That court found in favor of the Plaintiff, and Defendant appealed to the Court of Common Pleas.[2] Defendant requested a jury trial and the case was subsequently transferred to this Court.[3] At trial, Defendant was found "not negligent in control of his German Shepherd" by the jury.[4] Both parties were pro se at trial; Mr. Modica was retained by Plaintiff only after Defendant filed a "Motion for Costs."[5]

2. Defendant now seeks reimbursement for various court costs and asserts "I had to pay this, just to defend myself and my best friend, when this case shouldn't have gone to court."[6] Plaintiff contends that this was a "good faith dispute, and that [Plaintiff] prevailed at the Justice of the Peace Court level."[7] Plaintiff disputes Defendant's contention that Plaintiff should be responsible for costs, asserting Defendant's "demand for a jury trial for a case involving a relatively small amount in dispute caused him to incur costs that he would not have incurred had the case remained in the Court of Common Pleas."[8]

3. "Under Superior Court Civil Rule 54(d) and 10 Del. C. § 5101, the prevailing party in a civil action may recover costs against the adverse party."[9] However, the Delaware Supreme Court has held that "[d]etermining when costs are awarded and when they are not is, in [its] judgment, a matter of judicial discretion under the statute."[10] Put another way, "there may be circumstances under which costs are not awarded to the prevailing party."[11]

4. This Court finds that this case presents such a set of circumstances. The Court agrees with the Plaintiff that Defendant incurred a great portion of his costs because he insisted on a jury trial over a relatively small dispute. Defendant may claim that this case did not have to go to court, but it proceeded to Superior Court at his wishes. Under the Delaware Constitution[12] and 10 Del. C. § 1328(d), [13] Defendant had a right to demand a trial by jury. However, this Court is in no way obligated to subsidize that right. The Court and Plaintiff expended time and resources to accommodate Defendant's case and he is required to pay for those costs.

Therefore, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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