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Joseph Guarrasi et al. v. Diane E. Gibbons et al.


February 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yohn, J.


Plaintiff Joseph Guarrasi, a state prisoner and former attorney acting pro se, sued twenty-nine defendants for various civil-rights violations in connection with Guarrasi's arrest for attempted murder and other charges.*fn1 Among those defendants was Thomas G. Gambardella, whom Guarrasi sued both individually and in his official capacity as an assistant district attorney in Bucks County. Following a bench trial, I entered judgment in favor of Gambardella with respect to Guarrasi's claims against him, and entered judgment against Gambardella with respect to his counterclaim against Guarrasi.

As the prevailing party, Gambardella filed a bill of costs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1), and, after considering Guarrasi's objections, the clerk taxed costs of

$742.25, for deposition transcripts, against Guarrasi.*fn2 Guarrasi now appeals from the clerk's order, claiming that the costs were "improvidently taxed." (Guarrasi's Notice of Appeal.)

"A district court's review of the clerk's determination of costs is de novo." Reger v. Nemours Found., Inc., 599 F.3d 285, 288 (3d Cir. 2010). There is, however, "a strong presumption that costs are to be awarded to the prevailing party." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

Guarrasi does not dispute that Gambardella is the prevailing party or that the cost of deposition transcripts may properly be taxed here. Rather, Guarrasi argues that Gambardella is not entitled to recover costs because Bucks County, which defended Gambardella in this action, paid the costs that Gambardella seeks. Guarrasi further asserts that under Pennsylvania law, Gambardella would be able to keep any amounts awarded to him as costs,*fn3 and argues that an award of costs to Gambardella would thus be a windfall to him and would frustrate the intent of the federal statute governing the taxation of costs.*fn4

Guarrasi cites no authority precluding an award of costs merely because those costs were paid by a third party, and Rule 54(d)(1) contains no such limitation. Indeed, other courts that have considered the issue have concluded that costs may be awarded "to a prevailing party even if such costs were initially paid by a third party on the prevailing party's behalf." Haldeman v. Golden, No. 05-00810, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54111, at *12--*13 (D. Haw. May 28, 2010) (awarding costs to state-employee defendant sued in her individual capacity where State of Hawaii had incurred the costs); see also Moore v. Mercier, No. 00-2099, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 25396 (8th Cir. Oct. 12, 2000) (affirming award of costs to prevailing defendants where State of Missouri had paid their costs); Draper v. Martin, No. 06-3138, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111709, at *3 (C.D. Ill. Oct. 20, 2010) (awarding costs to defendants as prevailing parties even though they were indemnified by the State of Illinois and the state defended them); cf. Manor Healthcare Corp. v. Lomelo, 929 F.2d 633, 639--40 (11th Cir. 1991) (holding that prevailing party could recover its costs even though its insurance company paid its litigation costs). These courts have concluded that "[i]t is irrelevant whether the taxable costs . . . were actually paid by [the prevailing party] or by a third party." King v. Gowdy, No. 02-CV-75136, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32755, at *6 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 22, 2008) (allowing costs to prevailing plaintiff where court had paid the costs through its pro bono program). In so concluding, these courts have not inquired as to whether a repayment obligation exists between the prevailing party and that third party, and Guarrasi has cited no authority for conditioning an award on a finding of such a repayment obligation here.*fn5

Accordingly, I will affirm the clerk's taxation of costs. An appropriate order accompanies this memorandum.

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