United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Afraaz R. Irani, M.D., Plaintiff,
Palmetto Health, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, David E. Koon, M.D., in his individual capacity, and John J. Walsh, M.D., in his individual capacity, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART BILLS OF COSTS ECF
NOS. 190, 192
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court for a ruling on Defendants'
bills of costs (ECF Nos. 190, 192), to which Plaintiff has
interposed various objections (ECF Nos. 194, 199). Plaintiff
argues, inter alia, that all costs should be denied due to
his financial circumstances. Alternatively, Plaintiff argues
that specific costs should be denied on various grounds.
reasons set forth below, the court overrules Plaintiff's
objections to the extent he seeks to avoid payment of any
costs. The court overrules Plaintiff's other objections
except as to three itemized costs Palmetto Health agrees
should not be awarded (reductions totaling $1, 503.52) and
copying costs in the amount of $1, 197.26 sought by the
remaining Defendants (collectively "University
Defendants"). Ultimately, the court awards costs in the
amount of $10, 902.46 to Defendant Palmetto Health and costs
in the amount of $5, 106.90 to the University Defendants.
filed this action on September 8, 2014, asserting multiple
claims relating to his treatment during and termination from
an orthopaedic surgery medical residency program
("Residency Program") and subsequent events related
to that termination. Defendant Palmetto Health
("Palmetto Health") was the official sponsor of the
Residency Program and operated the Program in affiliation
with Defendant University of South Carolina School of
Medicine ("USC-SOM"). Defendants David E. Koon,
M.D. ("Dr. Koon"), and John J. Walsh, M.D.
("Dr. Walsh"), are employees of USC-SOM and were
involved in operation of the Residency Program at the time of
Plaintiff's participation and thereafter.
the University Defendants filed three early motions for
judgment on the pleadings and summary judgment. ECF Nos. 18,
22, 31 (filed in December and January 2015). While those
motions were pending, Plaintiff sought and was granted leave
to file an Amended Complaint. ECF Nos. 27, 48. The Amended
Complaint asserted a total of thirteen causes of action
against the various Defendants, though not all claims against
early motions for summary judgment were denied without
prejudice to renewal following the close of discovery. The
motion for judgment on the pleadings was granted in part,
ending one claim in full and dismissing several others to the
extent asserted against Dr. Walsh. ECF No. 95.
the close of discovery, all Defendants moved for summary
judgment on all remaining claims. ECF Nos. 136, 137, 139.
These motions were supported and opposed with substantial
briefing and evidentiary attachments, including excerpts of
multiple depositions (the costs for which are at issue here).
Ultimately, the court granted summary judgment in
Defendants' favor on all claims. ECF No. 188. Defendants,
thereafter, filed the bills of costs that are now at issue.
Objection to Payment of Any Costs Based on Financial
first argues that no costs should be awarded due to his
financial circumstances, particularly when contrasted with
Defendants' circumstances. ECF No. 194 at 2-4 (describing
Plaintiff as a person of "modest means, " who would
face "tremendous hardship" if required to pay costs
and Defendants as "large, non-profit or governmental
entities that are regularly required to defend themselves
from lawsuits"). Plaintiff argues he pursued the action
in good faith and notes the sheer volume of the briefs,
exhibits, and summary judgment order. Id. at 3
("[U]ndersigned counsel for Plaintiff has never before
faced such voluminous briefs and attachments on summary
judgment as were presented in this case, nor has he ever
received a 116-page order on a summary judgment
motion."). In arguing that the court should deny costs
under these circumstances, Plaintiff relies on Ellis v.
Grant Thornton LLP, 434 Fed.App'x. 232 (4th Cir.
2011), which affirmed a district court's denial of costs
following a trial. Id. at 4 (noting issues were
close and difficult, the case was hotly contested, judgment
was reached with difficulty and only after a thorough and
careful evaluation of the applicable law, and evidence
presented at trial allowed the district court to carefully
evaluate Plaintiff's financial condition). Plaintiff
suggests that awarding costs to Defendants would be
"inequitable and unjust ‘rubbing of salt' in
Plaintiff's considerable, proverbial wounds."
Id. at 4.
attached declaration, Plaintiff states that the four-plus
years since his termination from the Residency Program
"have caused a tremendous financial hardship" for
him and his parents. ECF No. 194-1 ¶ 2. He avers the
annual costs of his education exceeded $50, 000 (expenses
incurred prior to his residency) and paying these costs was
"financially challenging." Id. ¶ 3.
He does not, however, indicate how these expenses were paid
(e.g., what amounts were paid from employment,
savings, scholarships or loans or the balance of the latter),
although he does, in a later paragraph, refer without
specificity to a "huge education debt."
Id. ¶¶ 3, 10. Plaintiff also states that
he borrowed $10, 000 from his parents following his
termination from the Residency Program to apply to other
programs. Id. ¶ 4. He refers to his decision to
move back in with his parents following his termination from
the program due to his "substantial debt from
undergraduate and medical school, " his inability to
find a job other than as a driver for Uber and Lyft, and the
over $100, 000 in expenses he incurred in successfully
appealing the denial of his application to practice medicine
in California. Id. ¶¶ 6, 8. He
acknowledges he has been working for a management consulting
company since July 2015, but provides no detail as to his
compensation. Id. ¶ 9. He also states that he
has "huge educational debt" from his years at
Stanford and has "incurred approximately $100, 000 in
attorney's fees and over $35, 000 in expenses in
connection with [the present action], most of which is still
unpaid." Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff concludes that
he lacks the funds to pay the costs sought and suggests he
would be required to borrow from his parents to satisfy any
award. Id. ¶ 10.
Defendants note in their responsive memoranda,
Plaintiff's claims of financial difficulties are not
supported by any proffer of evidence beyond his relatively
generic declaration. For example, while claiming the
existence of substantial debt, Plaintiff fails to state the
amount of the debt or provide any supporting documentation.
He also fails to disclose the amount of his present income
(over $140, 000 per year according to evidence proffered by
Defendants) or that he was offered an opportunity to start
the job six months earlier. While the delayed start date may
have a reasonable explanation (that Plaintiff needed time to
dedicate to this litigation), the failure to volunteer ...