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King v. Eastern Shore Water, LLC

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

August 22, 2013

Danielle S. King, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Eastern Shore Water, LLC, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUSAN K. GAUVEY, Magistrate Judge.

I. Background

This case was decided on summary judgment by this Court on July 31, 2012. (ECF No. 35).[1] On August 3, 2013, a bill of costs in the amount of $4, 158.15 was submitted. (ECF No. 37). On November 9, 2012, a Bill of Costs in the amount of $3, 733.80 was entered. (ECF No. 41). On January 31, 2013, the Court issued a Writ of Garnishment to J.C. Penny's which was delivered to plaintiff Latasha Johnson in February 2013. (ECF No. 65, 1).

On April 8, 2013, Latasha Johnson filed an objection to the Writ of Garnishment. (ECF No. 64).

II. Discussion

A. Statute of Limitations

Defendant notes that the Bill of Costs was entered on November 9, 2012, and contends that plaintiff had five days subsequent to this date to file a motion for review. (ECF No. 65, 2). Because plaintiff's April 8, 2013 objection was well outside of this window, defendant argues, it is untimely. (Id.).

Under the United States District Court for the District of Maryland's Guidelines for Bills of Costs ("The Guidelines"), an "opposing party must file any memorandum in opposition to any costs within fourteen (14) days of service of the Bill of Costs." The Guidelines at I(D); see also United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Local Rules, 109.1(c). Alternatively, Rule 54 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that "[o]n motion served within the next 7 days, the court may review the clerk's action." FED. R. CIV. P. 54(d)(1).

In either case, the Court agrees that plaintiff's objection, filed months after costs were taxed by the clerk, was untimely. The defendant was not, however, prejudiced by this delay. As a result, and considering plaintiff's pro se status, the Court opts to consider the motion. See Mitchell-Tracey v. United Gen. Title Ins. Co. , 839 F.Supp.2d 821, 825 (D. Md. 2012)(A court "may consider untimely objections" under Rule 54); In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig. , 221 F.3d 449, 459 (3d Cir. 2000)("[C]ourts may, in their discretion, consider untimely objections [under Rule 54].").

B. Costs

In her motion, plaintiff argues that she "was not present at the time of judgment, " which the Court assumes to be a reference to the entry of the bill of costs on November 9, 2012. (ECF No. 64, 1). She also notes several perceived deficiencies in her representation throughout the dispute. (Id.). Finally, she notes that she is a single mother of four and does not have sufficient funds to continue with the case, and asks that the "fee... be split four ways with Danielle King, Marquito Purnell and Glenda Shockley so I can pay my portion and move on from this." (Id.). In response, defendant argues that under existing law Ms. Johnson is liable for the entire amount of costs. (ECF No. 65, 3).

Rule 54(d)(1), provides in pertinent part:

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)(1). The Fourth Circuit has determined that the rule "creates the presumption that costs are to be awarded to the prevailing party." Cherry v. Champion Int'l Corp. , 186 F.3d 442, 446 (4th Cir. 1999). A court "has the discretion to deny an award of costs, " however, so long as "good reason" for the denial is articulated. Ellis v. Grant Thornton LLP , 434 Fed.Appx. 232, 235 (4th Cir. 2011). Courts may consider several factors in determining whether a denial of costs is appropriate: (1) misconduct by the prevailing party worthy of a penalty; (2) the unsuccessful party's inability to pay the costs; (3) the excessiveness of the ...


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