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Maag v. Silversea Cruises Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 10, 2019

GURPREET GIL MAAG, Plaintiff,
v.
SILVERSEA CRUISES, LTD., Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TAX COSTS

          EDWIN G. TORRES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Silversea Cruises LTD.'s (“Defendant”) motion to tax costs against Gurpreet Gil Maag (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Maag”). [D.E. 83]. Plaintiff responded to Defendant's motion on June 28, 2019 [D.E. 86] to which Defendant replied on July 3, 2019. [D.E. 87]. Therefore, Defendant's motion is now ripe for disposition. After careful review of the motion, response, reply, relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion should be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a maritime personal injury action in which Plaintiff alleges that, on July 7, 2017, she boarded the Silver Cloud ship in Oslo, Norway. At the ship's pool deck restaurant, Plaintiff ordered an appetizer of guacamole. Plaintiff alleges that she told the waiter that she was vegetarian and severely allergic to shellfish. However, unbeknownst to Plaintiff, there was shellfish in the guacamole and she fell ill. An employee then escorted Plaintiff to the ship's infirmary and the ship's personnel gave Plaintiff medication. The next day, on July 8, 2017, Plaintiff disembarked the ship and participated in a shore excursion.

         After returning from the shore excursion, Plaintiff visited the ship's infirmary again where a door was shut in her proximity - causing hearing loss, headaches, and fertility complications. Therefore, Plaintiff filed a one-count complaint, alleging that Defendant was negligent in “(a) [f]ail[ing] to properly prepare and serve their food in such a way as to be safe and not to cause illness to persons eating said food; and/or (b) [f]ail[ing] to warn of the dangers presented by eating said unsafe food; and/or (c) [f]ail[ing] to properly supervise and train its agents, servants and/or employees in preparing food; and/or (d) [n]egligently and careless slamm[ing] a door shut in close proximity to Plaintiff's head; and/or (e) [a]cts and/or omissions not yet discovered.” [D.E. 1 at ¶9 (a-e)].

         On May 10, 2019, the Court entered a Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”) that summary judgment be entered in favor of Defendant because Plaintiff failed to submit any sworn evidence in the record of a medical expert. The Court also determined that, even if Plaintiff's unsworn experts were considered, Plaintiff could not establish the element of causation because none of Plaintiff's experts opined that Defendant's negligence caused Plaintiff's medical injures. The Court adopted the R&R on May 10, 2019 [D.E. 79] and entered final judgment on May 17, 2019. [D.E. 80]. Accordingly, Defendant seeks costs under 28 U.S.C. § 1920 as the prevailing party.

         II. APPLICABLE PRINCIPLES AND LAW

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1), a prevailing party is entitled to recover costs as a matter of course unless directed otherwise by a court or statute. A strong presumption exists in favor of awarding costs. Id. A court may tax as costs those expenses enumerated in 28 U.S.C. § 1920. See Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U.S. 437, 445 (1987) (absent explicit statutory or contractual authorization, federal courts are bound by the limitations set out in § 1920). “To defeat the presumption and deny full costs, a district court must have a sound basis for doing so.” Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1039 (11th Cir. 2000). The court should not take into consideration the relative wealth of the parties, as it would undermine the presumption that Rule 54(d)(1) creates in favor of the prevailing parties. Id.[1]

         Upon the filing of a timely motion or bill of costs, which sets forth in detail the amounts requested, the opposing party has the burden of showing that the requested costs fall outside the scope of this statute or are otherwise unreasonable. See, e.g., Eugene v. 3Don & Partner Estate Group, LLC, 2009 WL 996016, at *14 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 14, 2009) (finding that the burden lies with the challenging party to show that depositions were not related to an issue in the case at the time they were taken, and thereby show they were not wholly or partially “necessarily obtained for use in the case.”).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant seeks $5, 087.96 in deposition costs and $195.40 in copying costs. Plaintiff does not challenge Defendant's entitlement to costs as Defendant is the prevailing party in this case when the Court entered final judgment in Defendant's favor on May 17, 2019. [D.E. 80]. It is equally clear that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case based on the underlying record and that Defendant conferred under the Local Rules prior to filing its motion. As such, we need only consider whether Defendant's costs are recoverable under 28 U.S.C. § 1920.

         A. Deposition Transcript Costs

         First, Defendant seeks $5, 087.96 in costs for the deposition of Ms. Maag, Begonia de Usabel, Dr. Jeffrey Wood, Frank Sansone (“Mr. Sansone”), and Hugo Vanosmael. Defendant claims that these costs were incurred to resolve factual issues raised in Plaintiff's complaint and were necessarily obtained for use at trial. Plaintiff contends, on the other hand, that some of the costs fall outside the scope of U.S.C. § 1920 and that Defendant should not recover any amounts related to delivery, handling, bundling, indexing, or the acquiring of a signature. Plaintiff also argues that the cost of Mr. Sansone's deposition should be disallowed entirely because it was not a transcript necessarily obtained for use in this case nor was it used in support of Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Therefore, Plaintiff concludes that Defendant is not entitled to any costs for Mr. Sansone's deposition nor any other extraneous deposition charges.

         We begin with whether Defendant should recover costs related to the delivery, handling, bundling, indexing, and the acquiring of a signature. We agree with Plaintiff - and most courts in our district - that these miscellaneous costs are not taxable because they are for the convenience of counsel and not necessarily obtained for use in a case. See Oreilly v. Art of Freedom Inc., 2018 WL 6616445, at *7 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 14, 2018), Report and Recommendation adopted, 2019 WL 1115879 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 8, 2019) (“Miscellaneous costs associated with deposition transcripts, such as shipping and handling, expedited delivery of transcripts, exhibit costs, or condensed transcripts, are not taxable because they are incurred for convenience of counsel, as opposed to being necessarily obtained for use in the case.”) (citing Watson v. Lake Cty.,492 Fed.Appx. 991, 997 (11th Cir. 2012) (finding that “§ 1920 does not authorize recovery of costs for shipment of depositions”); Garden-Aire Vill. S. Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. QBE Ins. Corp., 2013 WL 12086655, at *2 (S.D. Fla. June 13, 2013)). “While Plaintiff may recover the costs for transcripts and court reporter attendance fees, ” any other miscellaneous charges do not fall within the scope of U.S.C. § 1920. Id ...


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