DEFENDANTS PREVAIL ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT BUT ARE PRECLUDED FROM RECOVERING SUBSTANTIAL COSTS WHERE REQUEST FOR SAME WAS UNTIMELY
Joe Fenison v. Birmingham Spring Service, Inc. et al.:
On November 6, 2009, The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released this opinion wherein it considered the trial court’s Order granting the defendants’ motion to tax costs to the plaintiff. Specifically, the employee sued his employer, the third party administrator, and adjustor for compensatory and punitive damages alleging wrongful conduct in failing to abide by a previously entered workers’ compensation consent judgment. The defendants prevailed on their motion for summary judgment on January 14, 2008. The Order stated that costs were "taxed as paid." On May 20, 2008, more than 4 months after the Order was entered, the defendants filed a motion pursuant to Alabama Rule of Civil Procedure ("ARCP") 60(b) seeking relief from the cost provision and asking the court to order the plaintiff to reimburse the defendants for the costs ($57,044.65 in court-reporting bills, legal transcription bills, and legal service invoices) incurred in defending the lawsuit. The judge granted the motion in part and ordered that the plaintiff reimburse $19,529.45 to the defendants. The plaintiff appealed the Order.
On Appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals noted that the defendants were on notice of the costs "taxed as paid" provision from the date that the January 14, 2008 Order was entered. As such, the defendants should have filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the cost provision within 30 days of the judgment which was their right to do pursuant to ARCP 59(e). Further, the defendants could possibly have prevailed on a motion for relief based on mistake, inadvertence, or neglect pursuant to ARCP 60(b)(1) had the motion been filed within 4 months of the date of the Order. However, since the defendants waited until more than 4 months had elapsed before filing their motion, they effectively foreclosed any rights they had to such relief.
PRACTICE POINTER: Just because you prevail on the merits of a case does not mean that a judge will order the opposing party to reimburse your costs. However, there are certain situations where such a remedy may be appropriate. In such situations, it is important to make sure that your request is timely or you may be forever precluded from seeking such relief.