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Ulloa v. Fancy Farms, Inc.

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

July 26, 2019

SELSO PALMA ULLOA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FANCY FARMS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          SUSAN C. BUCKLEW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Tax Costs. (Doc. No. 113). Defendant opposes the motion. (Doc. No. 115). As explained below, the motion is granted in part.

         I. Factual Background

         Defendant Fancy Farms produces hand-harvested strawberries for commercial sale. To obtain a steady workforce for its strawberry operations, beginning with the 2013-14 strawberry season, Fancy Farms sought to employ workers through the H-2A temporary agricultural guestworker program. To assist it in obtaining workers through the H-2A program, Fancy Farms hired Nestor Molina, a principal of All Nations Staffing, and his business partner, Patrick Burns, as employees on June 20, 2013.

         At no time did Fancy Farms authorize Molina or Burns to request recruitment fees from prospective H-2A workers, or to accept recruitment payments from prospective workers. Fancy Farms did not, however, contractually forbid Molina, Burns, or their agents from seeking or receiving recruitment fees from prospective workers, despite federal regulations requiring it to do so. Plaintiffs (54 foreign laborers who are citizens of Honduras) paid recruitment fees in amounts between $3, 000 and $4, 000 to various agents of Molina as a condition of hire with Fancy Farms.

         II. Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs asserted two claims against Fancy Farms: (1) violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and (2) breach of contract. This Court granted summary judgment in favor of Fancy Farms on Plaintiffs' FLSA claim and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Fancy Farms on Plaintiffs' breach of contract claim. (Doc. No. 74). Thereafter, the parties filed a stipulation, in which they agreed that the Court's summary judgment order resulted in barring 28 of the 54 plaintiffs' breach of contract claims. (Doc. No. 83). Additionally, the parties agreed in the stipulation that the Court could resolve the remaining 26 plaintiffs' breach of contract claims based on the evidentiary record before it. (Doc. No. 83). As a result, the Court found in favor of Fancy Farms on all Plaintiffs' breach of contract claims. (Doc. No. 95).

         Thereafter, Fancy Farms moved for an award of costs as the prevailing party. (Doc. No. 97). The Court awarded costs to Fancy Farms in the amount of $2, 690.61, which included $824.90 for Carl Grooms' (Fancy Farms' president) deposition. (Doc. No. 98, 99, 104).

         Thereafter, Plaintiffs appealed this Court's rulings, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part this Court's judgment. (Doc. No. 106). Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Court's judgment in favor of Fancy Farms on the FLSA claim. (Doc. No. 106). The Eleventh Circuit also affirmed this Court's judgment in favor of Fancy Farms as to 43 of the 54 plaintiffs' breach of contract claim. (Doc. No. 106). However, the Eleventh Circuit vacated part of this Court's judgment to the extent that this Court found that the 11 Remaining Plaintiffs did not show that their recruitment payments were proximately caused by Fancy Farms' breach. (Doc. No. 106). The Eleventh Circuit then remanded the case for further proceedings as to the 11 Remaining Plaintiffs' breach of contract claim. (Doc. No. 106).

         On remand, this Court concluded that causation existed and directed that judgment be entered in favor of the 11 Remaining Plaintiffs on their breach of contract claim. (Doc. No. 109). Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion to tax costs in their favor.

         III. Motion to Tax Costs

          Plaintiffs move this Court for an award of $14, 513.15 in costs. In reviewing Plaintiffs' motion for costs, the Court is mindful of the following:

A prevailing party may recover costs as a matter of course unless otherwise directed by the Court or applicable statute. Congress has delineated which costs are recoverable under Rule 54(d), Fed.R.Civ.P. The Court has the discretion to award those costs specifically enumerated in 28 U.S.C. ยง 1920. The Court, however, may not tax as costs any items not authorized by statute. When challenging whether costs are ...

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