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Wheeler v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

August 9, 2019

TRACEY WHEELER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge

         On March 21, 2019, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (collectively, the "ABC defendants") on the plaintiffs claim of hostile work environment based on sexual harassment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). The ABC defendants have since filed a bill of costs pursuant to Rule 54(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, the court will award the ABC defendants costs in the amount of $2, 472.97.

         Procedural History

         Tracey Wheeler filed this action against the ABC defendants on July 18, 2017, asserting a claim of hostile work environment under Title VII.[1] Wheeler later amended her complaint to include a claim of retaliation against the ABC defendants. On February 20, 2019, the court granted summary judgment to the ABC defendants on the claim of retaliation. On March 21, 2019, a jury found in favor of the ABC defendants on the hostile work environment claim. On March 25, 2019, the court entered final judgment in favor of the ABC defendants.

         The case is now before the court on the ABC defendants' request for an award of costs in the amount of $5, 985.03.[2] The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

         Summary of the Applicable Law

         "Under Rule 54(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, costs 'should be allowed to the prevailing party' unless a federal statute provides otherwise." Williams v. Metro Life Ins. Co., 609 F.3d 622, 636 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1)). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has recognized that the language of Rule 54(d)(1) gives rise to a "presumption that costs are to be awarded to the prevailing party." Cherry v. Champion Int'l Corp., 186 F.3d 442, 446 (4th Cir. 1999). Although the court has the discretion to deny an award of costs, it must "articulat[e] some good reason for doing so," in order to "overcome the presumption." Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). "Among the factors that justify denying an award of costs are: (1) misconduct by the prevailing party; (2) the unsuccessful party's inability to pay the costs; (3) the excessiveness of the costs in a particular case; (4) the limited value of the prevailing party's victory; or (5) the closeness and difficulty of the issues decided." Ellis v. Grant Thornton LLP, 434 Fed.Appx. 232, 235 (4th Cir. 2011). Although the unsuccessful party's "good faith in pursuing an action is a virtual prerequisite to receiving relief from the normal operation of Rule 54(d)(1), that party's good faith, standing alone, is an insufficient basis for refusing to assess costs against that party." Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         The particular expenses that may be taxed as costs under Rule 54(d)(1) are set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1920. That statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

A judge or clerk of any court of the United States may tax as costs the following:
(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 ...

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