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Moujaes v. San Francisco City and County

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 28, 2017

NYLA MOUJAES, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN FRANCISCO CITY AND COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVIEW COSTS Re: Dkt. No. 124

          Donna M. Ryu United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Nyla Moujaes (“Plaintiff”) moves for review of the $3, 517.25 cost bill that was taxed against her following a jury trial in this case. [Docket No. 124]. Defendants Officer David B. Wasserman and Sergeant Gary Buckner (“Defendants”) oppose. [Docket No. 126]. The court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). Having considered the parties' submissions, the court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion and DECLINES to award costs for the reasons stated herein.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this civil rights action alleging that Defendants violated her federal constitutional rights in connection with a traffic stop that took place on July 14, 2013. On that night, Plaintiff was driving in a car with her girlfriend on Mission Street in San Francisco, when she was pulled over Defendants for making an illegal left turn. What occurred during the traffic stop was the subject of much dispute. However, it is undisputed that Plaintiff suffered a dislocated shoulder from the incident that required emergency medical treatment.

         Plaintiff brought claims against Defendants and other individual officers pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful seizure, wrongful arrest, and excessive force. Plaintiff also asserted a Monell claim for municipal liability against the City and County of San Francisco. The court granted summary judgment on the claims against the City and County of San Francisco, Plaintiff's unlawful seizure and arrest claims, and claims against certain individual officer defendants, but denied summary judgment on the excessive force claims against Wasserman and Buckner. See Nyla Moujaes v. San Francisco City & Cty., No. 15-CV-03129-DMR, 2016 WL 4702671, at *10 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2016).

         The case proceeded to a week-long trial, during which the parties presented numerous witnesses, experts, and evidence. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Wasserman and Buckner. See Jury Verdict [Docket No. 114].

         Following the jury's verdict, Defendants filed a timely bill of costs in the amount of $9, 922.41. See Bill of Costs [Docket No. 120]. Plaintiff objected. See Plaintiff's Objections to Bill of Costs [Docket No. 121]. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1920(3) and Civil Local Rule 54-3, the Clerk disallowed $6, 405.16, and reduced the cost bill to $3, 517.25. See Bill of Costs [Docket No. 123].

         Plaintiff now moves this court to review the final cost bill of $3, 517.25, and requests that the court decline to award any costs.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d), “[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.” Rule 54(d) therefore creates a “presumption for awarding costs to the prevailing party.” Draper v. Rosario, 836 F.3d 1072, 1087 (9th Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). However, this “allowance [of costs] to the prevailing party is not . . . a rigid rule.” Fishgold v. Sullivan Drydock & Repair Corp., 328 U.S. 275, 283-84 (1946); see also Ayala v. Pac. Mar. Ass'n, No. C08-0119 TEH, 2011 WL 6217298, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 14, 2011) (“In order to overcome the presumption, a losing party must show that to award costs to the prevailing party would be unjust.”) (citation omitted). A district court has “discretion to refuse to award costs.” Ass'n of Mexican-Am. Educators v. State of Cal., 231 F.3d 572, 591 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). “That discretion is not unlimited.” Id. “A district court must specify reasons for its refusal to award costs.” Id. at 592 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         As explained by the Ninth Circuit, “[a]ppropriate reasons for denying costs include: (1) the substantial public importance of the case, (2) the closeness and difficulty of the issues in the case, (3) the chilling effect on future similar actions, (4) the plaintiff's limited financial resources, and (5) the economic disparity between the parties.” Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc., 743 F.3d 1236, 1247-48 (9th Cir. 2014). This list is not “exhaustive . . . of good reasons for declining to award costs, but rather a starting point for analysis.” Id. at 1248 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff argues that the court should decline to award costs because all five factors identified by the Ninth Circuit in Escriba support such a result. Defendants oppose, arguing that none of the Escriba factors weighs in favor of denying costs in this case. As discussed below, the court finds that at least four of the Escriba factors support the denial of a cost award.

         A. The Substantial ...


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