Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recovering costs: Private process server fees allowed

A prevailing party can recover certain costs of litigation under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1920, these costs include clerk and marshal fees, court reporter fees, printing and witness fees and copy fees.

Mollie Kennedy lost her products liability suit arising from her husband’s death in a coal mining accident in which he was pinned against a coal rib by the continuous miner he had been operating. U.S. District Judge James Jones, Chief Judge of the Western District, granted summary judgment for the defendants Joy Technologies and Matric Ltd.

In a decision yesterday in Kennedy v. Joy Technologies Inc. (VLW 007-3-152), Jones ruled on Matric’s petition for costs.

In its request for costs for serving summons and subpoenas, Matric asked for extra fees that stemmed from using private process servers, including rush fees and same-day service fees. The widow objected, arguing that § 1920 only covered service fees paid to U.S. marshals.

Jones said that the 4th Circuit hasn’t ruled on private process server fees, and judges in the Western District have been split.

Noting a shift from the marshals’ service to private process servers, Jones cast his lot with the “majority of the courts of appeals that have addressed this issued,” and said the defendant could collect the extra amount.

But Jones drew the line at rush-service and same-day service fees. The ruling still meant an extra $296 for the defendant.

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