United States District Court, D. Maryland
DAVID M. SKEBERDIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
CLARK BRILL, M.D., et al., Defendants.
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiffs David and Kara Skeberdis'
Motion to Review the Clerk's Order Taxing Costs (ECF No.
98). The motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following
reasons, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motion, vacates the
Clerk's Order, and denies Defendants' Bill of Costs.
medical malpractice case was tried for eight days before a
jury, from July 30 to August 9, 2019. ECF Nos. 74-83.
Plaintiff David Skeberdis had suffered a
Methicillin-Resistant staph aureus (MRSA) infection
following an attempted cervical epidural injection performed
by one of the Defendants, Doctor Clark Brill. ECF No. 98
¶ 6; ECF No. 92-2 at 3, 12-13. Skeberdis underwent
emergency surgery on his neck to evacuate pockets of abscess
and infection, including a ten-level (C4-to-T4) laminectomy,
or fusing, of his spinal column. Id. As a result,
and as demonstrated at trial, Skeberdis suffers from
permanent chronic pain and is limited in his daily life
activities. ECF No. 98 ¶ 6; ECF No. 92-2 at 4-9, 14, 16.
central question for the jury at trial was whether the
physicians who performed the epidural injection and cared for
Skeberdis immediately following the injection were medically
negligent. ECF No. 98 ¶ 6; ECF No. 90. After nearly a
day of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in
Defendants' favor. ECF No. 90. On August 23, 2019,
Defendants filed a Bill of Costs, requesting $28, 911.40. ECF
No. 94. On September 10, 2019, the Clerk of the Court entered
an Order Taxing Costs in the amount of $11, 068.08. ECF No.
97. The Clerk excluded those costs that fell outside those
authorized under Rule 54 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, and also expressly noted that only this Court may
review whether costs should be further reduced or denied on
equitable grounds. ECF No. 97 at 2-3. On September 20, 2019,
Skeberdis moved for this Court to perform that very review.
ECF No. 98.
Standard of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) provides: “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.” In this 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 § I.A
(2013); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d) (providing
that the “clerk may tax costs on 14 days'
notice”). This Court reviews de novo the Clerk's
taxation of costs. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(1);
Schwartz v. Rent-A-Wreck of Am., No. PJM 07-1679,
2016 WL 3906581, at *2 (D. Md. July 14, 2016).
“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), the court retains “discretion to deny an award
of costs, ” so long as “good reason” for
the denial is articulated. Ellis v. Grant Thornton
LLP, 434 Fed. App'x, 232, 235 (4th Cir. 2011).
“Among the factors for consideration are: (1)
misconduct by the prevailing party; (2) the unsuccessful
party's inability to pay the costs; (3) the excessiveness
of the costs in a particular case; (4) the limited value of
the prevailing party's victory; or (5) the closeness and
difficulty of the issues decided.” Ellis, 434
Fed.Appx. at 235 (citing Cherry, 186 F.3d at 446).
In essence, there must “be an element of injustice in a
presumptive cost award.” Id. (quoting
Cherry, 186 F.3d at 446).
objects to the award of costs, arguing that payment would
pose a financial hardship and that such payment is unjust
when considering the issues in his case were close and
difficult. ECF No. 98. The Court analyzes each argument in
Inability to pay
non-prevailing party is of sufficiently “modest
means” such that it would be unjust or inequitable to
enforce Rule 54(d)(1) against him, then the court acts within
its discretion to deny costs to the prevailing party.
Cherry, 186 F.3d at 447. However, the non-prevailing
party must provide sufficient documentation establishing his
inability to pay costs. Wyne v. Medo Industries,
Inc., 329 F.Supp.2d 584, 588 (D. Md. 2004) (citations
has shown, through tax returns and other earning information
produced during discovery and at trial, that he has earned no
income since 2016. ECF No. 98 ¶ 7; ECF No. 98-1. He
fared little better in the two preceding years. In 2015, he
earned just $6, 902, and in 2016, a mere $92. Id. By
comparison, the award is nearly double what Skeberdis earned
in those years. Further, testimony at trial from both David
and his wife, Kara Skeberdis, confirm that the couple live
modestly and that Skeberdis has little to no ability to
work. Cf. Ellis, 434 Fed. App'x at
236 (finding it proper for the district court to rely on
evidence of a party's financial condition admitted at
trial when assessing ability to pay costs). Accordingly, the
record amply supports granting the motion on the grounds of
financial hardship. See Levy v. Lexington County,
S.C., No. CA 3:03-3093-MBS, 2012 WL 6675051, at *3
(D.S.C. Dec. 20, 2012) (denying $12, 898.70 in costs where
non-prevailing parties with yearly incomes of $44, 598 and
$109, 647, but with outstanding debt of $21, 000, was found
to be of “modest means.”); Musick v. Dorel
Juvenile Grp., Inc., No. 1:11CV00005, 2012 WL 473994, at
*1-2 (W.D. Va. Feb. 13, 2012) (denying bill of costs in
products liability personal injury claim after review of
plaintiff's limited financial means); Broccoli v.
Echostar Commc'ns Corp., 229 F.R.D. 506, 517 (D. Md.
2005) (finding the non-prevailing party, who had an annual
income of $3, 627.07, was “clearly” of
sufficiently modest means to justify denial of $16, 104.40 in
costs). On this record, the Court finds Skeberdis'
limited income renders assessment of costs, now or in the
Closeness and ...