Court Reporting Fees and… Taxes?
When it comes to fees awarded in court, many of us tend to think more about what amount is owed to the prevailing party, not necessarily how the court came up with such a number, the taxes included, or many of the other costs that are bundled together to create the final number.
In a case that came out on December 2nd for jury selection during a trial, real-time court reporting fees were not allowed to be labeled as a taxable cost, whereas many other fees awarded, such as the appearance fee, were labeled as a taxable costs, leaving many attorneys to question the final judgment.
These costs were discussed in the case The Field Club, Inc. vs. Robin and Charles Alario, where the Alairos filed a negligence action against The Field Club, Inc. A trial was held and resulted in favor of the Alarios, leading them to request a total of $133,918.54 on December 9th, 2015. The court ultimately awarded them a total of $47,327.82.
The Field Club appealed the final judgment of the awarded costs on several grounds, requesting many costs be stricken altogether; given that the Alarios’ were awarded tax costs for real-time court reporting, overhead expenses, and expert witness fees. The court’s final ruling on the appeal was explained as follows:
Real-Time Court Reporting Taxes:
The Statewide Uniform Guidelines for Taxation of Costs in Civil Actions do not provide taxation of “real-time” court reporting fees, stating these costs cannot be taxed like many other court reporting costs. Accordingly leaving the portion of the $2601 that was awarded for “real-time” court reporting fees to be stricken.
Overhead Expense Taxes:
Even though many overhead expenses are not typically taxable, the court had the discretion to award these costs if it found that they were reasonably necessary under unique circumstances of the case. The trial court did not make any such findings here, allowing $2,665.27 to be stricken from the final judgment, leaving the Alarios stunned.
Expert Witness Taxes:
As for the Expert Witness Fees, Dr. Negroski could be technically considered an expert witness because he was Ms. Alario’s treating doctor, and he also gave his expert opinions on her injuries and their significance. However, according to Fla. Stat. 92.231(2) (2015): “Any expert or skilled witness who shall have testified in any cause shall be allowed a witness fee and shall include taxes as costs. A treating physician is not generally classified as an expert witness. Therefore, we address the award of Dr. Negroski’s fee together with the award of the other expert witness fees.
The Alarios’ failed to present any testimony that proved the expert fees were reasonable and necessary, leaving the amount of $12,500 for the expert witness fees to be stricken from the final amount.
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