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Gierer v. Rehab Medical, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 20, 2018

JENNIFER GIERER, Plaintiff,
v.
REHAB MEDICAL, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on defendant Rehab Medical, Inc.'s motion in support of its bill of costs. Plaintiff Jennifer Gierer has filed her response and opposes many of the itemized costs. The matter is fully briefed and ready for decision. For the following reasons, the Court will grant in part and deny in part defendant's motion for bill of costs.

         Background

         On March 14, 2017, the Court entered summary judgment in favor of defendant on Count I of plaintiff's four-count Third Amended Complaint, which asserted a claim under the anti-retaliation provisions of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h). The Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the three remaining state law claims and dismissed these claims without prejudice. See Doc. 137. The state law claims were a Missouri statutory claim for unpaid commissions due; unjust enrichment for compensation earned and due; and common-law wrongful termination in violation of public policy. In the accompanying Judgment and Order of Dismissal, the Court assessed costs against plaintiff. Doc. 138.

         Within the time allowed under Eastern District of Missouri Local Rule 8.03, defendant filed a motion for bill of costs, a supporting memorandum, and all supporting documentation. Plaintiff objects to many categories of these costs, and argues that defendant should be awarded only one-fourth of its costs because it prevailed on only one of four counts.

         After defendant submitted its bill of costs, plaintiff re-filed in state court the three state law claims that were dismissed without prejudice in this case. On October 25, 2017, defendant removed the new state court case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction, and the case is currently pending before another judge of this Court. See Gierer v. Rehab Medical, Inc., No. 4:17-CV-2624 HEA (E.D. Mo.) (“Gierer II”). Defendant has moved for summary judgment on plaintiff's three state law claims in Gierer II, and that motion remains pending.

         Discussion

         A. Timeliness

         Plaintiff first objects to defendant's motion for bill of costs as untimely pursuant to Federal Rule 54(d), which requires a bill of costs to be filed within fourteen days of the Court's entry of judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d). This Court's Local Rule 8.03(A)(1) states, however, that a party has twenty-one days after the date of entry of a final judgment to file a bill of costs. Defendant filed its bill of costs within the twenty-one day time period allowed by the local rules, and it is timely.

         B. Prevailing Party Under Federal Rule 54(b)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) provides that “[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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d). Plaintiff argues that because defendant prevailed only as to Count I and the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Counts II through IV, the Court must consider whether the costs sought are reasonable in relation to the success achieved. Plaintiff asserts that defendant's costs should be reduced to one-fourth of the amount it seeks, because defendant prevailed on only one of her four claims.

         “It is generally true that status as a prevailing party is determined on the outcome of the case as a whole, rather than by piecemeal assessment of how a party fares on each motion along the way.” Jenkins v. State of Mo., 127 F.3d 709, 714 (8th Cir. 1997). This is because “[a] party who is only partially successful also can be deemed a prevailing party. Consequently, a claimant who has obtained some relief usually will be regarded as the prevailing party even though the party has not sustained all his claims.” Boswell v. Panera Bread Co., No. 4:14-CV-1833 AGF, 2016 WL 4415350, at *1-2 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 19, 2016) (quoting Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2667 (3d ed.)). “The fact that a party does not prevail on all of its claims does not . . . preclude it from being the prevailing party for purposes of awarding costs under Rule 54(d).” Kemin Foods, L.C. v. Pigmentos Vegetales del Centro S.A. de C.V., 464 F.3d 1339, 1347 (8th Cir. 2006). Similarly, the fact that a party prevails on one of its claims does not necessarily dictate that that party is the prevailing party for purposes of awarding costs. Id.

         “Cost awards are committed to the discretion of the district courts, and there is no rule requiring courts to apportion costs according to the relative success of the parties.” Kemin Foods, id. at 1348. “In fact, apportioning costs according to the relative success of the parties is appropriate only under limited circumstances, such as when the costs incurred are greatly disproportionate to the relief obtained.” Id. (citing 10 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 54.101[1][b] (3d ed. 2006)).

         Here, the instant case is in an unusual procedural posture. While defendant prevailed as to the federal claim in Count I-and thus, is the prevailing party in Gierer I-the remaining three state law counts asserted by plaintiff and dismissed without prejudice in this case are now pending before the Court in Gierer II. If plaintiff prevails in Gierer II, she would be entitled to an award of her costs in that case. Under these circumstances, the Court in the exercise of its discretion finds it appropriate to limit defendant's cost award to one-fourth of its costs based on its partial success in Gierer I.[1]

         The Court now turns to the specific items of cost sought by defendant, and ...


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