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Guzman v. The Boeing Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 6, 2019

ADRIANA GUZMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOEING COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON MISCELLANEOUS POST-TRIAL MOTIONS

          JUDITH GAIL DEIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On October 26, 2010, American Airlines flight 1640 experienced a rapid decompression while on route from Miami to Boston. The aircraft returned to Miami and the passengers were placed on a second aircraft to resume their journey to Boston. The plaintiff, a passenger on the flight, subsequently filed suit against The Boeing Company (“Boeing”), the manufacturer of the plane and the defendant in the instant case. Boeing agreed to be held liable for any proximately caused damages.

         After a nine day trial on the issue of damages, the jury returned a verdict on April 12, 2018, finding that the plaintiff had suffered $2.2 million in damages, but that she had failed to mitigate $726, 000 of those damages. (See Docket No. 348). On April 19, 2018, this Court entered judgment for the plaintiff, which included prejudgment interest, for a total judgment of $2, 271, 651.60. (See Docket No. 349).

         Presently before the court are the following post-trial motions that have been filed by the parties: (1) plaintiff's “Bill of Costs” (Docket No. 369) and defendant's “Motion for Disallowance and Objections to Plaintiff's Bill of Costs” (Docket No. 376); (2) defendant's “Motion to Compel Resolution of Outstanding Expert Deposition Fee Issues” (Docket No. 400); (3) plaintiff's “Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment” (Docket No. 383); and (4) defendant's “Motion for Stay of Execution of Judgment and Waiver of Bond Requirement” (Docket No. 353). Each motion will be addressed in turn. Boeing's motion for a new trial or remittitur under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 and 50(b) (Docket No. 380) is addressed in a separate opinion.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff's Bill of Costs and Defendant's Objections thereto

         After the entry of judgment, the plaintiff filed a bill of costs, seeking to tax the defendant for costs incurred by the plaintiff, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d). (See Docket No. 369). The defendant filed a “Motion for Disallowance and Objections to Plaintiff's Bill of Costs, ” objecting to fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts and fees for witnesses.[1], [2] (See Docket No. 376). For the reasons discussed below, the defendant's motion is ALLOWED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         Standard of Review

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d), “costs - other than attorney's fees - should be allowed to the prevailing party, ” unless a rule of civil procedure, a federal statute, or a court order provide otherwise. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1920, the costs that are recoverable under Rule 54(d) include fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case, and fees and disbursements for witnesses. The specific witness fees that are recoverable are detailed in 28 U.S.C. § 1821.

         A court's ability to deny costs that are eligible for taxation under Rule 54(d) operates with a “background presumption favoring cost recovery for prevailing parties.” In re Two Appeals Arising Out of the San Juan Dupont Plaza Hotel Fire Litig. (San Juan Dupont Plaza Hotel Fire Litig.), 994 F.2d 956, 962 (1st Cir. 1993). Thus, “[w]hen denying costs, a district court must offer an explanation for doing so unless the basis for denying costs is ‘readily apparent on the face of the record.'” B. Fernandez & HNOS, Inc. v. Kellogg USA, Inc., 516 F.3d 18, 28 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting San Juan Dupont Plaza Hotel Fire Litig., 994 F.2d at 963).

         Deposition Transcripts

         The defendant contests the deposition transcript fees for Dr. Biswas ($1, 080), Dr. Podbros ($1, 117.50), Dr. Buza ($1, 144.60), [3] and the plaintiff ($745, $1, 127.70, and $904.40 for the plaintiff's three depositions), arguing that their depositions were not obtained for use at trial. The defendant also takes issue with the deposition costs associated with two witnesses who had previously been parties to the present litigation against the defendant. Finally, the defendant contests the video costs associated with Dr. Marmar's deposition.[4]

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1920, fees for transcripts “necessarily obtained for use in the case, ” are recoverable. Such transcripts are necessarily obtained for use in the case if they are “either introduced in evidence or used at trial.” Templeman v. Chris Craft Corp., 770 F.2d 245, 249 (1st Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1021, 106 S.Ct. 571, 88 L.Ed.2d 556 (1985). Deposition transcript fees may also be recoverable “if special circumstances warrant it.” Id. However, using deposition transcripts to merely prepare for trial or in legal memoranda is not sufficient to impose costs. Haemonetics Corp. v. Fenwal, Inc., 863 F.Supp.2d 110, 116-17 (D. Mass. 2012); Walters v. President & Fellows of Harvard Coll., 692 F.Supp. 1440, 1443 (D. Mass. 1988) (“Although these depositions may well have been necessary to the thorough preparation of the plaintiff's case, she has not demonstrated any special circumstances warranting the recovery of the associated costs.”).

         The plaintiff argues generally that the deposition transcripts of the plaintiff and three doctors were used to defend against trial objections relating to their deposition testimony, but fails to cite any specific examples. The record reflects that plaintiff's counsel read from Dr. Buza's deposition transcript on the second day of trial in response to an objection from defense counsel. (See Tr. II:128-29). However, the record does not show that the plaintiff used the other witnesses' deposition transcripts at trial. The plaintiff has also failed to articulate any special circumstances warranting the recovery of these fees. Thus, the defendant is only responsible for paying the deposition transcript costs of Dr. Buza, and shall not be taxed on the costs of the deposition transcripts for Dr. Biswas, Dr. Podbros, and the plaintiff.

         The defendant also argues that the deposition transcript fees for former plaintiffs Cheryl Carnevale and Gwendolyn Farrell should not be included because those depositions were taken in connection with their individual claims. The defendant contends that because those claims were settled before this case went to trial, the former plaintiffs already paid the deposition costs in fee agreements with their own attorneys and the defendant should not be made responsible for them. The plaintiff does not address the issue of whether such costs were previously paid by the former plaintiffs, but contends that the defendant is responsible for paying them because these depositions were taken with the knowledge that they would be relevant to everyone's claims, including the plaintiff's. The court agrees with the defendant that it would be unreasonable to “double count” the ...


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