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Fabiyi v. McDonald's Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 23, 2014

TIFFANY FABIYI, Plaintiff,
v.
McDONALD'S CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER

YOUNG B. KIM, Magistrate Judge.

Before the court is Defendant McDonald's Corporation's ("the company") bill of costs. For the following reasons, the company is awarded the sum of $1, 000 in costs:

Background

In November 2011, Plaintiff Tiffany Fabiyi, proceeding pro se, filed this action against her former employer alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, sex, marital status, and disability. (R. 1-3.) She alleged violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., and the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101, et seq. (R. 1.)

In 2012 the parties consented to the jurisdiction of this court for all further proceedings in the case, including the entry of final judgment. (R. 17.) Ultimately, this court granted the company's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in its favor. (R. 81-83.) The company submitted a bill of costs to the court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 seeking $7, 816.83. (R. 90.) The court informed Fabiyi that she had until May 2, 2014, to file a response to the bill of costs, (R. 91), but she chose not to respond. After the court informed her that it was within its discretion to consider her indigence when assessing the bill of costs, (R. 92), Fabiyi filed documents to support her claim that she is incapable of paying the company's costs at this time or in the future, (R. 93).

Analysis

Rule 54(d)(1) provides that "[u]nless a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs-other than attorney's fees-should be allowed to the prevailing party." There is a strong presumption in favor of awarding costs to the prevailing party. Park v. City of Chicago, 297 F.3d 606, 617 (7th Cir. 2002). But the decision to award costs is firmly within the discretion of the district court. O.K. Sand & Gravel, Inc. v. Martin Marietta Techs., Inc., 36 F.3d 565, 571 (7th Cir. 1994).

Fabiyi did not contest any of the line items in the company's bill of costs. Even so, this court "must determine that the expenses are allowable cost items and that the costs are reasonable, both in amount and necessity to the litigation." Weihaupt v. Am. Med. Ass'n, 874 F.2d 419, 430 (7th Cir. 1989). The definition of "costs" as used in Rule 54(d) is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1920, which states that the court may tax as costs:

(1) Fees of the clerk and marshal; (2) Fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case; (3) Fees and disbursements for printing and witnesses; (4) Fees for exemplification and the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case; (5) Docket fees under section 1923 of this title; (6) Compensation of court appointed experts, compensation of interpreters, and salaries, fees, expenses, and costs of special interpretation services under section 1828 of this title.

A. Subpoena Fees

The company seeks $271.50 for fees paid to LaSalle Process Servers LP for "[s]ame day rush" delivery of subpoenas for Dr. Seth Osafo and Robert Francis King. But the company does not explain why same-day service was required. The invoice provides one fee for service of both subpoenas-$271.50-and does not indicate an hourly fee or whether the expedited service was an additional charge.

Section 1920(1) permits the court to assess costs for clerk and Marshal fees, a category that includes costs related to service of subpoenas. 28 U.S.C. § 1920(1); Lalowski v. Corinthian Sch., Inc., No. 10 CV 1928, 2013 WL 3774002, at *2 (N.D. Ill. July 18, 2013). However, the cost must be reasonable and necessary, see Soler v. Waite, 989 F.2d 251, 255 (7th Cir. 1993), and "may not exceed the U.S. Marshal's rate at the time process was served, " Hernandez-Martinez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., No. 11 CV 4990, 2013 WL 2384251, at *2 (N.D. Ill. May 30, 2013) (citing Collins v. Gorman, 96 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 1996)). The U.S. Marshal's statutory rate for service of subpoenas in February 2013, when the subpoenas were served, was "$55 per hour (or portion thereof) for each item served by one U.S. Marshals Service employee, agent, or contractor, plus travel costs and any other out-of-pocket expenses." See 28 C.F.R. § 0.114(a)(3) (2008). The invoices that the company submitted from its process server do not indicate the number of hours it took to serve the two subpoenas. Accordingly, the court reduces the amount requested to the cost of one hour per subpoena, or $110 total.

B. Medical Records Fees

The company submitted invoices and checks showing that it spent $95.01 subpoenaing medical records from Fabiyi's medical providers. These copies of medical records were "necessarily obtained for use in the case" because Fabiyi's ADA claims were premised on her allegation that she was under a medical disability. Costs of obtaining medical records are "clearly allowable" under Rule 54(d). Finchum v. Ford Motor Co., 57 ...


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