Recovering Litigation Costs in Federal Court (Northern District of Illinois)

Federal court litigants in Illinois should be versed in 28 U.S.C. §1920, FRCP 54 and Northern District Local Rule 54.1 – both of which govern recoverable costs and the procedures for recovering those costs in Federal court.  Broadly, the prevailing party has 30 days from date of judgment to file a Bill of Costs.  Failing that, all of his costs – except for “clerk” costs (28 U.S.C. § 1920) – are waived. LR 54.1(a).

FRCP 54 creates a strong presumption that the prevailing party may recover reasonable and necessary litigation costs from the losing party.  Huerta v. Village of Carol Stream, 2013 WL 427140 (N.D.Ill. 2013).  28 U.S.C. §1920 provides that a winning party can recover: (1) clerk and marshal fees [filing and service fees, e.g.]; (2) fees for transcripts necessarily obtained for use in a case; (3) printing and witness fees; (4) exemplification/certification costs for materials necessarily used in a case; (5) docket fees; and (6) court-appointed experts and interpreters’ fees.  Id.  The prevailing party has the burden of showing that the requested costs are necessary and reasonable and once that burden is met, the losing party must show that the costs are not appropriate.  Beamon v. Marshall & Isley Trust Co., 411 F.3d 854 (7th Cir. 2005). 

A prevailing Federal court party’s private process server fees are also recoverable, so long as they don’t exceed the applicable marshall’s fees ($55/hour pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 0.0114(a)(3); see Huerta, 2013 WL 427140, *3.  As for deposition costs, whether transcript costs are allowed depends on whether it was reasonably and necessarily “related to an issue that was present in the case at the time the deposition was taken.”  Independence Tube Corp. v. Copperweld Corp., 543 F.Supp. 706, 718 (N.D.Ill. 1982).  If so, the victor gets the cost of the original transcript, one copy and an additional copy – so long as the additional copy is tendered to the court.  LR 54.1(b).  The prevailing party can recover up to $3.65 per deposition page.  Huerta, at *3; citing Maximum Transcript Rates, http://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/home/clerksoffice/CLERKS_OFFICE/CrtReporter/trnscrpt.htm

 However, shipping and handling costs are “ordinary business expenses” and not recoverable.  Bogan v. City of Chi., 2010 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 64187 (N.D.Ill. 2010).

The take-away:  If litigating in Federal court, the recent Huerta case provides a lucid and detailed treatment of allowable and dis-allowable litigation costs.  If presenting or opposing a Bill of Costs, this case and the applicable rules it references should prove useful in supporting your arguments.  Also, effective, May 23, 2013, LR 54.1(b) was amended to provide that court reporter appearance fees may be awarded but those rates shall not exceed the rates published on the Court website.  

References:

Huerta opinion: http://www.abisoft.org/opinions/2013/1_09-cv-01492_20130204.pdf

Local Rule 54.1http://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/legal/newrules/New00039.htm

Local Rule 54 (amendment May 23, 2013) http://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/home/clerksoffice/rules/admin/pdf-orders/General%20Order%2013-0011%20-%20Local%20Rule%2054.1.pdf

FRCP 54: http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/rule_54

28 U.S.C. §1920: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/28/1920