United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
JOEY N. BLYTHE, Plaintiff,
HARRIS TEETER LLC, Defendant.
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on defendant Harris Teeter
LLC's (“Harris Teeter”) submission of a bill
of costs for $3, 242.12. Plaintiff Joey N. Blythe
(“Blythe”) objects to the costs. For the reasons
set forth below, the court overrules Blythe's objections
and grants Harris Teeter $3, 242.12 in costs.
a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides
otherwise, costs- other than attorney's fees-should be
allowed to the prevailing party.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
54(d)(1). Rule 54(d)(1) creates a presumption “that
costs are awarded to the prevailing party.” Keeshan
v. Eau Claire Coop. Health Centers, Inc., 394 Fed.Appx.
987, 997 (4th Cir. 2010). However, “while Rule 54(d)(1)
intends the award of costs to the prevailing party as a
matter of course, the district court is given discretion to
deny the award.” Cherry v. Champion Int'l
Corp., 186 F.3d 442, 446 (4th Cir. 1999). “To
overcome the presumption [of awarding costs], a district
court must justify its decision [to deny costs] by
articulating some good reason for doing so.”
Id. The following factors may justify denying an
award of costs: (1) the prevailing party's engagement in
misconduct worthy of a penalty; (2) “the losing
party's inability to pay”; (3) excessive claimed
costs; (4) the limited value of the prevailing party's
victory; and (5) “the closeness or difficulty of the
issues decided.” Id. A district court's
decision to award or deny costs is reviewed for abuse of
Teeter prevailed in this action, having judgment entered in
its favor pursuant to the court's order granting Harris
Teeter's motion for summary judgment. While Blythe does
not dispute that Harris Teeter is the prevailing party, he
argues that an award of costs to Harris Teeter should be
denied based on several of the factors articulated in
Cherry. Blythe first argues that Harris Teeter
should not be awarded costs because Blythe will have trouble
paying the costs. A court may deny costs when the losing
party is “of such modest means that it would be unjust
or inequitable to enforce Rule 54(d)(1) against her.”
Cherry, 186 F.3d at 447. Indeed, courts have denied
costs when the losing party convincingly demonstrates its
inability to pay. See Jeter v. Allstate Ins. Co.,
2017 WL 5593296, at *2 (D.S.C. Mar. 28, 2017) (denying
prevailing party's bill of costs in part because the
losing party was over sixty years old, ran a small business,
was the sole provider for his family, and stated that paying
the costs would be a substantial hardship); Merritt v.
Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 2009 WL 1362378, at *1
(W.D. Va. May 15, 2009) (finding that plaintiff did not have
ability to pay costs because she has been unable to find a
job after actively looking for one, had few assets, and had
significant credit card debt).
Blythe contends that he cannot pay Harris Teeter's costs
because he has not worked since his employment with Harris
Teeter was terminated, and because he has a diagnosed
disability that limits his ability to work at full capacity.
However, Blythe indicated at his deposition that he would
have no problem finding work and had two job opportunities at
other grocery stores after his termination with Harris Teeter
that he could accept. And while Blythe may not be able to
work at full capacity, he provides no reason as to why he
cannot work in some part-time capacity. Moreover, Blythe
testified at his deposition that “his wife makes great
money” and that he has income from various investments.
ECF No. 45 at 2 (citing Blythe Depo. 253:25-254:6).
Therefore, based on Blythe's own testimony, the court is
unconvinced that Blythe is “of such modest means that
it would be unjust or inequitable” for him to pay
costs. See Cherry, 186 F.3d at 447.
also argues that he brought the case in good faith.
“Most circuits, including this one, have rejected the
argument that an unsuccessful Title VII plaintiff's good
faith in bringing the suit will likewise shield her from
being taxed with her opponent's costs.”
Keeshan, 394 Fed.Appx. at 998. Therefore,
Blythe's representation that he brought his case in good
faith does not weigh in favor of denying costs.
next argues that the value of Harris Teeter's victory is
limited; however, the court disagrees. Blythe alleged that
Harris Teeter discriminated against him based on his age and
disability, and that Harris Teeter terminated him because of
his worker's compensation claim, his disability, and his
decision to take leave that he was entitled to under the
Family Medical Leave Act. These are serious allegations. In
addition, Blythe sought injunctive relief, civil damages,
back wages plus interest, payments for lost benefits,
reinstatement of benefits, and front pay, all of which would
have cost Harris Teeter a substantial amount of money.
Therefore, Harris Teeter's victory was not of limited
Blythe argues that this case was “very close.” A
case is “close and difficult” when it is
“hotly contested at trial” or when the legal
issues are not “clear cut.” Ellis v. Grant
Thornton LLP, 434 Fed.Appx. 232, 235 (4th Cir. 2011).
Blythe conceded three of his five claims, clearly indicating
that those claims were not “hotly contested.” As
for his remaining two claims, age discrimination and
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)
retaliation, the legal issues were straightforward, as the
law in these areas is clearly established. Moreover, the
ultimate resolution of the case was not “very
close.” The magistrate judge conducted a thorough
review of the evidence and still was unable to find
any evidence to support Blythe's claims. As
Harris Teeter explained, Blythe “mistakes the
meticulous nature of the Magistrate Judge's analysis for
difficulty deciding a close question, when in fact it was an
arduous journey in search of a material fact-any material
fact-that would justify denial of summary judgment.”
ECF No. 45 at 4. There is simply nothing to suggest that this
case was close or difficult.
after considering the Cherry factors,  the court finds
that Blythe's arguments do not overcome the presumption
of awarding costs to the prevailing party. For the foregoing
reasons the court OVERRULES Blythe's
objections and GRANTS Harris Teeter $3,
242.12 in costs
IS SO ORDERED.
 Blythe does not argue that Harris
Teeter engaged in misconduct or that Harris Teeter's