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Glauser v. Groupme, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 7, 2015

BRIAN GLAUSER, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated, Plaintiff,
GROUPME, INC., Defendant.


PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, District Judge.

Before the court is plaintiff's motion to review the taxation of costs. Having read the parties' papers and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part plaintiff's motion, as follows.


On February 4, 2015, the court entered an order granting defendant's motion for summary judgment. On February 17, 2015, defendant filed a bill of costs, seeking reimbursement of $15, 178.03. On March 25, 2015, the Clerk of Court reduced defendant's requested costs by a total of $5, 835.23, and taxed costs against plaintiff in the amount of $9, 342.80. Plaintiff filed the present motion on April 1, 2015, seeking three alternative forms of relief: (1) a deferral on any costs award until after the resolution of plaintiff's appeal of the summary judgment order, (2) a denial of any costs because "the issues were close and difficult and would have a chilling effect on future litigations, " or (3) a further reduction of the costs award to exclude any "unsupported and/or unjustified requests."


A. Legal Standard

"Unless a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs - other than attorney's fees - should be allowed to the prevailing party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d). The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted Rule 54(d) as "codif[ying] a venerable presumption that prevailing parties are entitled to costs." Marx v. General Revenue Corp., 133 S.Ct. 1166, 1172 (2013); see also Amarel v. Connell, 102 F.3d 1494, 1523 (9th Cir. 1997). The use of the word "should" in Rule 54(d) "makes clear that the decision whether to award costs ultimately lies within the sound discretion of the district court." Marx, 133 S.Ct. at 1172-73.

The losing party has the burden of overcoming the presumption by affirmatively showing that the prevailing party is not entitled to costs. See Save Our Valley v. Sound Transit, 335 F.3d 932, 944-45 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Stanley v. University of So. Cal., 178 F.3d 1069, 1079 (9th Cir. 1999)). Generally, only misconduct "worthy of a penalty, " an insignificant or nominal recovery, or the losing party's indigency will suffice. Association of Mexican-American Educators v. State of Cal., 231 F.3d 572, 591-92 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc); see also Save Our Valley, 335 F.3d at 945 (Ninth Circuit has in past decisions considered factors including the losing party's limited financial resources, misconduct on the part of the prevailing party, the importance and complexity of the issues, the merit of the plaintiff's case, and the chilling effect on future civil rights litigants of imposing high costs).

If the district court wishes to depart from the presumption in favor of awarding costs, it must "specify reasons" for doing so by explaining "why a case is not ordinary' and why, in the circumstances, it would be inappropriate or inequitable to award costs." Mexican-American Educators, 231 F.3d at 591-93. Although a district court must "specify reasons' for its refusal to tax costs to the losing party, " a court need not specify reasons for its "decision to abide the presumption and tax costs to the losing party." Save Our Valley, 335 F.3d at 945 (citing Association of Mexican-American Educators, 231 F.3d at 591) ("The presumption itself provides all the reason a court needs for awarding costs, and when a district court states no reason for awarding costs, [the reviewing court] will assume it acted based on that presumption.").

District courts may consider a variety of factors in determining whether to exercise their discretion to deny costs to the prevailing party. Association of Mexican-American Educators, 231 F.3d at 592-93. A court abuses its discretion by awarding costs only in the "rare occasion" where "severe injustice will result from an award of costs, " and the court does not conclude that the presumption in favor of awarding costs has been rebutted. Save Our Valley, 335 F.3d at 945.

B. Legal Analysis

Plaintiff's first argument is that the court should defer ruling on defendant's bill of costs pending the outcome of plaintiff's appeal. Plaintiff argues that courts have discretion to provide such relief, and notes that four factors are generally considered as part of such requests: (1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay, (3) whether issuance of a stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding, and (4) where the public interest lies. See Hilton v. Barunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987).

While plaintiff need not satisfy all four factors, the court finds it significant that plaintiff has not offered any argument whatsoever regarding factor (2). Plaintiff's opening motion glosses over factor (2), and his reply points only to the resources of defendant, making no mention of plaintiff's own financial condition. And while plaintiff's motion focuses on factor (1), the court finds the arguments presented to be unavailing. Plaintiff essentially reiterates the arguments raised in opposition to summary judgment, and while those arguments may certainly succeed on appeal, his failure to present any new authority prevents the court from finding that he has made a "strong showing" that the appeal is likely to succeed.

In reply, plaintiff argues that the court has discretion to order a stay even if the Barunskill factors are not satisfied. Even if true, the court finds that plaintiff has not presented a sufficient reason to stay the award of costs - whether analyzed under Barunskill or under any other discretionary power of the court. For that ...

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