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The Hawk Mountain LLC v. Mirra

United States District Court, D. Delaware

December 21, 2018

THE HAWK MOUNTAIN LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
RAYMOND A. MIRRA, JR., et al., Defendants.


         Presently before me is Defendants' Motion to Review Taxation of Costs. (D.I. 483). The Parties have fully briefed the issues. (D.I. 483, 484, 485). For the reasons set out below, I will GRANT Defendants' motion and allow them to recover costs beyond the amount initially granted by the Clerk.

         This Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss and closed this case on August 31, 2016. (D.I. 472). Plaintiffs appealed that decision to the Third Circuit. (D.I. 473). The Third Circuit affirmed the Court's decision on May 12, 2017. (D.I. 475). That affirmance conclusively resolved this case. Accordingly, Defendants filed a Bill of Costs with the Clerk seeking to recover $51, 683.52 in costs from Plaintiffs. (D.I. 476). On October 24, 2018, the Clerk granted $1, 985.00 of Defendants' requested costs and denied the balance. (D.I. 482). The Parties do not dispute the propriety of the costs that the Clerk granted. (D.I. 484 at 13).

         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) provides, "costs-other than attorney's fees- should be allowed to the prevailing party." The "costs" which should be allowed under Rule 54(d) are defined narrowly by 28 U.S.C. § 1920. Taniguchi v. Kan.Pac. Saipan, Ltd., 566 U.S. 560, 573 (2012) ("Taxable costs are limited to relatively minor, incidental expenses as is evident from § 1920, which lists such items as clerk fees, court reporter fees, expenses for printing and witnesses, expenses for exemplification and copies, docket fees, and compensation of court-appointed experts.").

         This Court has adopted District of Delaware Local Rule 54.1 as the standard under which the Clerk determines the amount of costs taxable by a prevailing party.[1] The Local Rule is meant to implement the '"strong presumption' that costs are to be awarded to the prevailing party." Reger v. The Nemours Found., Inc., 599 F.3d 285, 288 (3d Cir. 2010).

         Rule 54(d)(1) and Local Rule 54.1 provide that a party may seek review of the Clerk's decision within seven days of service. "A district court's review of the clerk's determination of costs is de novo." Id. Due to the discretionary nature of the costs determination, judges in this District have reached different conclusions when faced with requests to review the Clerk's determination. Compare Sanofi v. Glenmark Pharm., Inc., 2018 WL 64278701 (D. Del. Dec. 7, 2018), with Walker Digital, LLC v. Google, Inc., 2016 WL 1553974 (D. Del. April 12, 2016), and Bethea v. Rash, 2015 WL 4477693 (D. Del. July 22, 2015).

         II. Discussion

         A. Defendants are Prevailing Parties

         Plaintiffs argue that it is premature to decide whether Defendants are prevailing parties in this action. (D.I. 484 at 6-7). Their argument is essentially that the continued use of discovery obtained in this matter, in a related matter[2] ("companion case"), prevents the Court from deciding a prevailing party. In support of their novel position, Plaintiffs cite cases which confirm the inappropriateness of deciding a prevailing party while some claims remain unresolved in a case. (See Id. at 7-8 (citing A.H.D.C. v. City of Fresno, 2002 WL 34575401 at *15 (E.D. Cal., Oct. 17, 2002); Va. Panel Corp. v. Mac Panel Co., 887 F.Supp. 880, 886 (W.D. Va. 1995))). Those cases do not, however, address the appropriateness of deciding a prevailing party when no claims remain pending. And, unlike those cases, the outcome of this case is set. Regardless of whether Defendants prevail in the companion case, they prevailed on the claims at issue in this case. The outcome of the companion case will not change that result. Thus, the Clerk was correct to consider Defendants' request for costs.[3]

         B. Transcript Costs

         Defendants request the cost of twelve transcripts: nine discovery dispute conferences, a status conference, a scheduling conference, and an oral argument on a motion to dismiss. (D.I. 483 at 4-5). The Clerk denied this request entirely. (D.I. 482 at 4-5). I agree with the Clerk's conclusion that Defendants' request does not meet the requirements of Local Rule 54.1(b)(2) (transcripts are "taxable when requested by the Court or prepared pursuant to stipulation"). I will, however, exercise my discretion to grant costs beyond those listed in the Local Rule.

         Section 1920 allows a party to recover the cost of transcripts "necessarily obtained for use in the case." Defendants argue that when a transcript contains a ruling it is reasonably necessary for the parties to obtain a copy. (D.I. 483 at 3-4). I agree. It is necessary to the orderly progression of a case for the parties to know what, exactly, the court ordered. Due to limitations imposed by the Court, the only way for a party to confirm exactly what a judge ordered during a conference is via the official transcript. The transcript served as the Court's order for each of the nine discovery disputes. (Id. at 4-5). Accordingly, I will grant Defendants' request for the cost of the discovery dispute transcripts, which is $3, 203.09.

         I will, however, deny Defendants' request for the cost of the status conference, scheduling conference, and oral argument transcripts. Defendants cite pages in each transcript which allegedly contain necessary Court guidance, but they have not provided me a copy of those transcripts. I am not convinced that the transcripts were necessary based on Defendants' representation of their contents. A transcript is not necessary simply because the Court "provided guidance regarding the scheduling order" or the Court "inform[ed] the parties that it [would] enter the scheduling order." (Id.). That is the type of information which the Parties are expected to take note of during their interactions with the Court, but it is not the type of information that renders obtaining a copy of a transcript necessary.

         C. ...

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