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Horton v. The Methodist University, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

April 1, 2019

TAMMY HORTON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE METHODIST UNIVERSITY, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          JAMES C. DEVER III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On January 24, 2019, the court granted The Methodist University, Inc.'s ("Methodist" or "defendant") motion for summary judgment against Tammy Horton ("Horton" or "plaintiff') [D.E. 86, 87]. OnJaniiary31, 2019, Methodisttimelyfiledamotionseeking$4, 191.lOincosts[D.E.88]. On February 7, 2019, Methodist moved for attorneys' fees [D.E. 89] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E. 90]. On February 14, 2019, Horton appealed the court's grant of summary judgment to Methodist to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [D.E. 92]. On February 25, 2019, Horton moved to stay pending appeal [D.E. 95] and moved for an extension of time to respond to Methodist's motions [D.E. 96]. As explained below, the court grants Methodist's motion for costs, denies Methodist's motion for attorneys' fees, and denies Horton's motions to stay and for an extension of time to respond.

         I.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) governs a post-judgment motion for an award of costs. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). Rule 54(d)(1) provides that "costs-other than attorney's fees-should be allowed to the prevailing party." Id. A "prevailing party" is "a party in whose favor a judgment is rendered" or "one who has been awarded some relief by the court." Buckhannnn Bd. & Care Home. Inc. v. W.Va. Dep't of Health & Human Res.. 532 U.S. 598, 603 (2001) (quotation and alteration omitted). Rule 54(d)(1) "gives rise to a presumption in favor of an award of costs to the prevailing party." Teapnev Ralrker, 35 F.3d 978, 996 (4th Cir. 1994); see Delta Air Lines. Inc. v.August 450 U.S. 346, 352 (1981); Ellis v. Grant Thornton LLP. 434 Fed.Appx. 232, 235 (4th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (unpublished).

         Federal courts may assess only those costs listed in 28 U.S.C. § 1920. See28U.S.C. § 1920; Arlington C.ftnt. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Murphy. 548 U.S. 291, 301 (2006); Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons. Inc.. 482 U.S. 437, 441-43 (1987), superseded on other grounds by statute. 42 U.S.C. § 1988(c): Herold v. HajocaCorp.. 864 F.2d 317.323 (4th Cir. 1988).[1] Local Civil Rule 54.1 "further refines the scope of recoverable costs." Howard v. College of the Albemarle. No. 2:15-C V-39-D, 2017 WL 3754620, at * 1 (E.D. N.C. Aug. 29, 2017) (unpublished) (quotation omitted); Earp v. Novartis Pharm. Corp.. No. 5:11-CV-680-D, 2014 WL 4105678, at *1 (E.D. N.C. Aug. 19, 2014) (unpublished); see Local Civil Rule 54.1.[2]

         Methodist first seeks costs for "the depositions and printed transcripts reasonably and necessarily obtained for use in [the] case." [D.E. 88-2] ¶ 14; see Daniel M. Nunn Aff. [D.E. 88] 1. Such fees are recoverable. See 28 U.S.C. § 1920(2); Local Civil Rule 54.1; Howard. 2017 WL 3754620, at *1 (collecting cases); Silicon Knights. Inc. v. Epic Games. Inc.. 917 F.Supp.2d 503, 511. Methodist also seeks costs "[d]ocket fees under 28 U.S.C. §1923." [D.E. 88] 1. Suchfeesare recoverable. See 28 U.S.C. § 1920(5). Accordingly, the court grants Methodist's motion for costs, and awards Methodist $4, 191.10 in costs associated with deposition transcripts and docket fees pursuant to section 1920 and Local Civil Rule 54.1.

         II

         Methodist also seeks an award of its attorneys' fees [D.E. 89]. The court, in its discretion, "may allow the prevailing party... a reasonable attorney's fee" for actions commenced under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 42U.S.C. § 17.7.05; see Bine v Airal renters 1 Nn. 5:14-CV-95-FL, 2014 WL 2946419, at *4 (E.D. N.C. June 30, 2014) (unpublished). The Rehabilitation Act contains an analogous provision. See 29 U.S.C. § 794a(b); Brinn v. Tidewater Transp. Dist r.nmm'n, 242 F.3d 227, 231 (4th Cir. 2001). "[A] prevailing defendant is entitled to attorney's fees only if the plaintiffs suit was frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, or the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so." Blue. 2014 WL 2946419, at *4 (alteration and quotation omitted); see ChristJanburp Garment Co. v. Equal Emp't Opportunity r.nmm'n1434 U.S. 412, 422 (1978); Equal Emp't Opportunity rinmm'n v. Correct Care Sols.. No. 3:15-cv-4655-MGL-TER, 2017 WL 2954623, at *2 (D.S.C. June 23, 2017) (unpublished), report and recommendation Tnmendfltinn adopted, 2017 WL 2936217 (D.S.C. July 10, 2017) (unpublished). The Fourth Circuit has cautioned that "awarding attorneys' fees to a prevailing defendant is a conservative tool, to be used sparingly in those cases in which the plaintiff presses a claim which [she] knew or should have known was groundless, frivolous, or unreasonable." Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Great Steaks. Inc., 667 F.3d 510, 517 (4th Cir. 2012) (alteration and quotation omitted); see Arnold v. Burger King Corp., 719 F.2d 63, 65 (4th Cir. 1983).

         Although the question is close, the record does not support awarding attorneys' fees to Methodist. Accordingly, the court denies Methodist's motion for attorneys' fees.

         III

         On February 26, 2019, Horton moved to stay proceedings pending her appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [D.E. 95] and moved for an extension of time to file responses to Methodist's motions [D.E. 96]. As for Horton's motion to stay, the court denies the motion. Resolving these issues now better serves judicial resources.

         As for Horton's motion for an extension, Horton's motion concerning her response to Methodist's application for costs is untimely. Additionally, because the court denied Methodist's motion for attorneys' fees, Horton need not rile a response to Methodist's motion for attorneys' fees. Accordingly, the court denies Horton's motion for an extension of time to respond.

         IV.

         In sum, the court GRANTS defendant's application for costs [D.E. 88], DENIES defendant's motion for attorneys' fees [D.E. 89], DENIES plaintiff's motion to stay [D.E. 95], and DENIES plaintiff's motion for an extension of time ...


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