United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE JUDGE
case involves a dispute between Plaintiffs and
Counter-Defendants David Schwartz and Rent A Wreck, Inc.
(hereinafter, collectively "Schwartz") and
Defendants and Counter-Claimants Rent-A-Wreck of America,
Inc. and Bundy American, LLC (hereinafter, collectively
"Rent-A-Wreck'"), over Schwartz's operation
of a Rent-A-Wreck franchise in West Los Angeles. California.
The Court issued a Final Order of Judgment on Remand in this
matter on August 23, 2013. ECF No. 507. On March 10,
2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit issued an opinion affirming the Judgment. ECF No.
517. That court's mandate issued on April 2, 2015. ECF
Schrelevant filed a Bill of Costs, seeking $32, 665.21 in
costs from Rent-A-Wreck. ECF No. 518. On April 1, 2016, the
Clerk of Court issued an Order Taxing Costs in favor of
Schwartz and against Rent-A- Wreck in the amount of $13,
405.11. ECF No. 525. Now pending before the Court is Rent-A-
Wreck's timely Motion to Review Clerk's Order Taxing
Costs (ECF No. 526), in which Rent-A- Wreck asks that the
Court reject Schwartz's Bill of Costs in its entirety or,
in the alternative, reduce the Clerk's award of costs by
$4, 442.83. Having considered Schwartz's Bill of Costs,
the Clerk's Order Taxing Costs, and the parties'
briefings with respect thereto, the Court DENIES
Rent-A-Wreck's Motion to Review (ECF No. 526) and AFFIRMS
the Clerk's Order Taxing Costs (ECF No. 525).
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) provides, in 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." As the Fourth Circuit
has stated, this "rule creates the presumption
that costs are to be awarded to the prevailing party."
Cherry v. Champion Intern. Corp., 186 F.3d 442, 446
(4th Cir. 1999) (citing Delta Air Lines, Inc. v.
August, 450 U.S. 346, 352 (1981)) (emphasis added).
Twenty-eight U.S.C. § 1920 sets forth the costs that a
judge or clerk of any United States court may
award. These "costs are limited to
relatively minor, incidental expenses." Taniguchi v.
Kan.Pacific Saipan, Ltd., 132 S.Ct. 1997, 2006 (2012).
District, the Clerk of Court is entrusted with the taxation
of costs in the first instance. See U.S. District Court
for the District of Maryland Guidelines for Bills of
Costs § LA (2013) (hereinafter
"Guidelines'': see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
54(d) (providing that the "clerk may tax costs on 14
days" notice"); Taniguchi, 132 S.Ct. at
2006 (noting that "the assessment of costs'' is
often a "clerical matter" that can be "done by
the clerk") (internal citations and quotations omitted).
The Clerk's discretion to tax costs is limited, however:
the Clerk may not tax costs not permitted by statute, case
law, or Local Guidelines. See Guidelines § LA.
Rule 54(d) provides that, if a party objects to the costs
awarded by the Clerk, it may file a motion within seven days
of the Clerk's order, asking a court to conduct a de
novo review. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d); see
also Young v. United Parcel Service. Inc., No. CIV.A.
DKC 08-2586, 2014 WL 858330, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 4, 2014). If
a district court ultimately chooses not to award costs, it
"must justify its decision" by
''articulating some good reason" for not doing
so. Cherry, 186 F.3d at 446 (internal citations and
quotations omitted). "[O]nly misconduct by the
prevailing party worthy of a penalty ... or the losing
party's inability to pay will suffice to justify denying
costs." Id. (quoting Congregation of the
Passion, Holy Cross Province v. Touch, Ross & Co.,
854 F.2d 219, 222 (7th Cir. 1988)).
first argues that the Clerk should have rejected
Schwartz's entire Bill of Costs because (1)
Schwartz was not "shown to be the prevailing party"
in this litigation because he did not succeed on all claims,
and, relatedly, (2) Schwartz did not
"differentiate" the costs associated with his
successful claims from those associated with his unsuccessful
claims. Rent-A-Wreck's Mot. Objecting Clerk's Order
Taxing Costs ("Rent-A-Wreck's Mot.") 3-5. ECF
No. 526. In response, Schwartz asserts that, after two
trials, he is unquestionably the prevailing party, having
received a substantial amount of the relief sought: that is,
a declaration that he has the exclusive right to operate the
West Los Angeles Rent-A-Wreck franchise. Schwartz's Resp.
in Opp'n 3-5, ECF No. 527. As Schwartz argues, a
prevailing party need not succeed on all of its claims to be
awarded costs. Id. Moreover, there is no requirement
for differentiating costs between those associated with
successful claims and those associated with unsuccessful
claims. Id. 5.
Court agrees with Schwartz.
Whether Schwartz Is a "Prevailing Party" "To
be deemed a prevailing party"' for purposes of
taxing costs under Rule 54(d), "a plaintiff must prevail
on 'any significant claim affording some relief
sought."' Broccoli v. Echostar Comm'ns
Corp., 229 F.R.D. 506, 515 (D. Md. 2005) (quoting
Tex. State Teachers Ass'n v. Garland Indep. Sch.
Dist., 489 U.S. 782, 2791 (1989)) (emphasis added);
see also Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W.Va.
Dep't of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598,
603 (2011)) (noting that a prevailing party is
'La party in whose favor judgment is rendered,
regardless of the amount of damages awarded'").
Accordingly, a party need not recover on all of its claims
for relief to be considered a "prevailing party" -
just the "significant" ones. See Broccoli,
229 F.R.D. at 515; see also Fernandes v. Montgomery Cty.,
MD, No. CIV. SAG-10-752, 2013 WL 6330705, at *1 (D. Md.
Dec. 3, 2013) (holding that the plaintiff was the prevailing
party even though he succeeded on only one of his several
constitutional and tort claims); Garonzik v. Whitman
Diner, 910 F.Supp. 167, 168 (D.N.J. 1995) ("A
prevailing party is the one in whose favor a judgment is
rendered, regardless of whether the party has recovered its
entire claim or a portion thereof") (internal citations
omitted); All W. Pet Supply Co. v. Hill's Pet
Products Div., Colgate-Palmolive Co., 153 F.R.D.
667, 669 (D. Kan. 1994) (noting that, in general, the
prevailing party is "the party who won at trial, whether
or not that party prevailed on all issues, and regardless of
the amount of damages awarded") (internal citations
most recent version of the Complaint, Schwartz sought (i) a
declaratory judgment that he enjoys the exclusive right to
operate a Rent-A-Wreck franchise in West Los Angeles and (ii)
an order of specific performance, directing Rent-A-Wreck to
make his franchise available to potential customers through
its directories and webpages. Second Am. Complaint, ECF No.
167. After two jury trials and two appeals, Schwartz has
obtained this relief. See Final Order Declaratory
J., ECF No. 344; March 2, 2011 Order, ECF No. 382; Final
Order J. Remand; USCA J., ECF No. 517. Although Rent-A-Wreck
suggests that, in order to be considered the "prevailing
party, " Schwartz had to prevail on each and every
argument made or position taken throughout the course of this
litigation, see Rent-A-Wreck's Mot. 3-4, such a
contention does not accord with the law. Schwartz need only
succeed on his significant claims, and he clearly
has done so here. For these reasons, the Court concludes that
Schwartz is thus unquestionably the "prevailing
party" in this litigation.
Whether Schwartz Is Required to Differentiate Costs
points to no binding legal authority that requires a
prevailing party to differentiate the costs associated with
successful claims from those associated with unsuccessful
claims, nor is the Court aware of any. Such a rule, moreover,
would make little sense in the context of a party that has
prevailed on its significant claims, but not all of its
claims. Consider, for example, a plaintiff who succeeds on
two out of three of his or her related claims in a tort suit.
How would a clerk or a court tax an expense like the filing
fee paid in the case? Would the plaintiff be entitled to
reimbursement of only two-thirds of the filing fee? The Court
rejects the suggestion by Rent-A-Wreck that Rule 54(d)
operates in this manner.
presumption in the law is that the prevailing party is
entitled to costs, regardless of the amount of damages
awarded. See Buckhannon, 532 U.S. at 603. The
presumption is not that a prevailing party is
entitled only to partial costs which can be tied directly to
a successful claim. The latter rule would be unworkable,
especially in the present case. Here, the costs actually
taxed by the Clerk of Court - filing fees, private process
server fees, fees for transcripts of certain key witnesses,
and costs for copies of documents filed with the Fourth
Circuit, see Clerks' Order Taxing Costs - would
be nearly impossible to parse or assign to Schwartz's
successful or unsuccessful claims, especially in light of the
fact that Schwartz's claims were all ...