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Dennis Earl Barnes v. William J. Black and Metropolitan Property and Casualty

December 15, 2010

DENNIS EARL BARNES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM J. BLACK AND METROPOLITAN PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy Mcdade Senior United States District Judge

E-FILED

Wednesday, 15 December, 2010 09:57:12 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION & ORDER

On September 2, 2010, following a jury trial, judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff Dennis Earl Barnes and against Defendant Mary Black, as executor of the estate of William J. Black. (Doc. 313). The jury awarded Plaintiff $25,000 for damages arising out of an automobile accident. This Court's jurisdiction was based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1332, because the parties were of diverse citizenship and Plaintiff was seeking to recover more than $75,000.

On October 1, 2010, Plaintiff submitted a bill of costs and supporting documentation requesting costs from Defendants in the amount of $4,967.75. (Doc. 323). On October 14, 2010, Defendants objected to Plaintiff's bill of costs. (Doc. 325) Although it is beyond dispute that a prevailing party in a civil action may recover costs as a matter of course under Rule 54(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendants argue that Plaintiff is not entitled to costs in this particular suit because he recovered less than $75,000 and is thus not a prevailing party.

(Doc. 325 at 2). In the alternative, Defendants argue that certain specific costs sought by Plaintiff are speculative, unsubstantiated, or not recoverable.

DISCUSSION

As previously mentioned, this Court exercised jurisdiction over the instant action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Subsection (b) of that statute provides: "[e]xcept when express provision therefor is otherwise made in a statute of the United States, where the plaintiff who files the case originally in the Federal courts is finally adjudged to be entitled to recover less than the sum or value of $75,000 . . . the district court may deny costs to the plaintiff." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(b). The Seventh Circuit has held that this provision "enables federal courts to protect themselves from suits in which federal claims have been trumped up only to impose upon federal jurisdiction." Perlman v. Zell, 185 F.3d 850, 859 (7th Cir. 1999).

However, the fact that a plaintiff has not succeeded in recovering the jurisdictional amount does not make the denial of costs mandatory. Cosgrove v. Bartolotta, 150 F.3d 729, 734 (7th Cir. 1998). It is within the Court's discretion whether or not to allow for such recovery, considering, inter alia, the good faith of the plaintiff in seeking the amount claimed in federal court. See Dr. Franklin Perkins School v. Freeman, 741 F.2d 1503, 1525 (7th Cir. 1984); Canal Barge Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 2003 WL 1908023, at *1 (N.D. Ill. April 18, 2003).

Here, the Defendants argue that Plaintiff is not entitled to costs because, in addition to only recovering $25,000, Plaintiff did not present any evidence which would justify a greater award. (Doc. 325 at 1). While the evidence submitted by Plaintiff at trial may have made it difficult for a jury to award Plaintiff more than $75,000 in damages, this does not mean that Plaintiff sought more than $75,000 in bad faith.*fn1 Accordingly, the Court will not deny Plaintiff his costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(b).

In the alternative, Defendants have objected to several of Plaintiff's claimed costs on an individual basis. Although a district court has broad discretionary power to allow or disallow a prevailing party to recoup the costs of litigation, it may not tax costs beyond those authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 1920. Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U.S. 437, 441-42 (1982). "In order to award costs to a prevailing party, the court must determine that the expenses are allowable cost items and that the amounts are reasonable and necessary." Northbrook Excess & Surplus Ins. Co. v. Procter & Gamble Co., 924 F.2d 633, 642 (7th Cir. 1991). Accordingly, the Court will consider Plaintiff's claimed costs one at a time.

I. Fees for Service of Summons

Plaintiff seeks $882.64 for the service of summons and subpoenas in this case. Defendants do not object to the service fees of $394.92, which represent service fees incurred in the instant case, but they do object to the $487.72 worth of service fees incurred in case 03-C-703-C which was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1920(1), Plaintiff is entitled to recover the fees of the clerk and marshal in this case. However, the Court agrees with Defendants that Plaintiff cannot recover for service fees associated with a case filed in another district court. Despite the fact that the case filed in the Western District of Wisconsin appears to have been between the same parties, not only did ...


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