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Gonzalez v. Geico General Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

April 27, 2017

MANUEL A. GONZALEZ, ISHMAEL RAMJOHN, and ALELI GONZALEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
GEICO GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JA\IES S. MOODY, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Proposed Bill of Costs (Dkt. 273), Plaintiffs' Motion to Tax Costs (Dkt. 274), and Defendant's Response in Opposition (Dkt. 282). Upon review, the Court will partially grant Plaintiffs' motion. Specifically, the Court awards costs in Plaintiffs' favor in the amount of $31, 763.82.

         BACKGROUND

         The Parties have been litigating this bad faith insurance case since February 4, 2015 (Dkt. 1). The case proceeded to trial and, after a five-day jury trial, the jury entered a verdict finding that Defendant failed to settle Lisa Anderson's liability claim against Plaintiffs in good faith (Dkt. 247). On March 8, 2017, final judgment was entered in Plaintiffs' favor and against Defendant in the amount of $414, 698.34 (Dkt. 270). Plaintiffs now seek to recover their taxable costs.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Courts should award prevailing parties their costs. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). However, courts may only tax costs authorized by statute. U.S. E.E.O.C. v. W&O, Inc., 213 F.3d 600, 620 (11th Cir. 2000). Courts may tax costs enumerated in 28 U.S.C. § 1920, including fees for service of process, witnesses, and transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1920; U.S. E.E.O.C., 213 F.3d 600 at 620. The party seeking an award of costs must submit a request that enables the court to determine the party's entitlement to those costs. See Fodor v. D'Isernia, 599 F. App'x 375, 376 (11th Cir. 2015), cert. denied sub nom. Fodor v. E. Shipbuilding Grp., 136 S.Ct. 146 (2015); Loranger v. Stierheim, 10 F.3d 776, 784 (11th Cir. 1994). A party's failure to provide sufficient detail or documentation regarding the costs can be grounds to deny the costs. Pelc v. Nowak, No. 8:11-CV-79-T-17TGW, 2013 WL 3771233, at *5 (M.D. Fla. July 17, 2013), aff'd, 596 F. App'x 768 (11th Cir. 2015).

         In this case, Plaintiffs seek to recover $70, 912.97 in costs for (1) fees of the clerk and marshal, (2) deposition and hearing transcripts, (3) witnesses, (4) copies, and (5) interpreters. Plaintiffs also request that the Court award them prejudgment interest on their taxable costs. As discussed further below, the Court will award Plaintiffs $31, 763.82 in costs. The Court denies the request for prejudgment interest.

         i. Fees of the Clerk and Marshal

         “Fees of the clerk and marshal” may be taxed as costs under 28 U.S.C. § 1920(1). Plaintiffs request the $400 filing fee to the clerk and a $15 service fee to Defendant's registered agent, the Florida Chief Financial Officer. The $15 fee will be reduced to $8 because it was served by mail. 28 C.F.R. § 0.114(a)(1)(2). Accordingly, these fees total $408.

         Plaintiffs also request costs in the amount of $1, 210 associated with using a private process server to serve subpoenas for both deposition and trial. A prevailing party can recover the costs it incurred using a private process server to serve subpoenas, but those costs cannot exceed the amount authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 1921. U.S. E.E.O.C., 213 F.3d 600 at 623-24. Pursuant to that statute and its implementing regulations, process servers shall be paid $65 per hour, plus travel costs, and any other out-of-pocket expenses. 28 U.S.C. § 1921; 28 C.F.R. § 0.114(a)(3). Courts will not award fees incurred for rush service absent proof it was necessary. E.g., Cadle v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., No. 6:13-cv-1591-Orl-31GJK, 2015 WL 4352048, at *4 (M.D. Fla. July 14, 2015).

         Plaintiffs utilized private process servers, whose fees ranged from $45 to $125 per subpoena. Plaintiffs' invoices do not indicate how much time the process servers spent to effectuate service or whether they incurred any out-of-pocket expenses. The invoices do indicate that Plaintiffs paid a surcharge of $45 for rush service of one subpoena. Plaintiffs did not explain why they needed to expedite service of this subpoena. Therefore, the Court will deduct the rush surcharge from the service fees. The Court also deducts the second service on Carl Tims because Plaintiffs did not provide a reason for the second service in their motion. The Court also deducts any fee above the $65 cap. After applying these deductions, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover $875 in service fees.

         In sum, Plaintiffs' total costs in this category total $1, 283 ($408 $875).

         ii. Fees for Deposition and Hearing Transcripts

         A prevailing party can recover costs incurred obtaining deposition transcripts if they were “necessarily obtained for use in the case.” U.S. E.E.O.C., 213 F.3d 600 at 620-21. The party's use of the deposition in a dispositive motion or inclusion of the deponent in its witness list tends to show that the deposition was necessarily obtained for use in the case. See id. at 621. However, even when the prevailing party did not ultimately use the deposition, a court may still award it the cost as long as “no evidence shows that the deposition was unrelated to an issue in the case at the time it was taken.” Watson v. Lake Cty., 492 F. App'x 991, 996-97 (11th Cir. 2012).

         Deposition costs incurred for the party's convenience-as opposed to necessity- are not recoverable. U.S. E.E.O.C., 213 F.3d 600 at 620. Charges for condensed transcripts, summaries, scanning, and CD litigation packages are typically not recoverable because they are costs incurred for the party's convenience. E.g., Wiand v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 8:12-CV-557-T-27EAJ, 2015 WL 12839237, at *9-*11 (M.D. Fla. June 10, 2015), report and recommendation adopted, No. 8:12-CV-557-T-27EAJ, 2016 WL 355490 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 29, 2016) (internal citations omitted). In addition, charges for shipping and handling are not recoverable. Watson, 492 F. App'x 991 at 997. A prevailing party may recover the cost of video-recording a deposition, but only if the party noticed the deposition to be video-recorded, the ...


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