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Seals v. Correctional Medical Services

February 23, 2007

EDNA SEALS PLAINTIFF
v.
CORRECTIONAL MEDICAL SERVICES, INC. DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Leon Holmes United States District Judge

ORDER

Edna Seals brought this action alleging that Correctional Medical Services, Inc., her former employer, constructively discharged her based on age and race and in retaliation for the exercise of her lawful rights. A jury found in favor of Correctional Medical Services, Inc. Correctional Medical Services, Inc., has filed a bill of costs seeking an award of $2,932.66.

Rule 54(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that costs "shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs[.]" This provision creates a presumption that the prevailing party is entitled to costs. Greaser v. State of Mo. Dept. of Corrections, 145 F.3d 979, 985 (8th Cir. 1998). "Despite this presumption, however, the district court has substantial discretion in awarding costs to a prevailing party." Id. A district court has discretion to refuse to tax costs in favor of the prevailing party. Hibbs v. K-Mart Corp., 870 F.2d 435, 443 (8th Cir. 1989).

The evidence established that Seals has modest means compared to Correctional Medical Services, Inc. The costs that Correctional Medical Services, Inc., seeks would exceed her monthly income. On the other hand, Correctional Medical Services, Inc., is a company of substantial size for which, one suspects, these expenses are not a major item. See Mulvihill v. Spalding Worldwide Sports, Inc., 239 F. Supp. 2d 121, 122 (D. Mass. 2002). "[W]here the antagonists are very unevenly matched in size, resources, and stability, it would be unfortunate to use the possible taxation of costs as a sort of Damocles . . . ." Boas Box Co. v. Proper Folding Box Corp., 55 F.R.D. 79, 81 (E.D. N.Y. 1971).

Although the jury found against her, Seals brought the case and pursued it in good faith. An award of costs at or near the amount sought by Correctional Medical Services, Inc., would be punitive. Awarding such costs would have a chilling effect on persons who might seek to enforce their rights under this action's employment discrimination laws.

For these reasons, the Court declines to award costs to the defendant in this case.

IT IS SO ORDERED this 23rd day of February, 2007.

20070223

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