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Rosette v. PNK (Baton Rouge) Partnership

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 20, 2019

CHARLENE ROSETTE
v.
PNK (BATON ROUGE) PARTNERSHIP

          RULING AND ORDER

          Brian A. Jackson, United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Charlene Rosette's ("Plaintiff') Motion to Review Taxation of Costs (Doc. 60). PNK (Baton Rouge) Partnership ("Defendant") filed an opposition to Plaintiffs motion (Doc. 61). Plaintiff filed a response to Defendant's opposition. (Doc 62). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This matter arises from a complaint filed on January 9, 2017. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claimed that she faced a hostile work environment and retaliation by her superiors due to Plaintiffs desire to contact senior management officers about one of Plaintiffs managers being intoxicated at work and stealing employees' tips. (Id.). Plaintiff complained that the harassment became so prevalent that she was forced to file an EEOC complaint, which only further increased the harassment she faced. (Id.). Plaintiff claims that she was terminated on August 28, 2015. (Id.). Plaintiff filed a second EEOC complaint on October 5, 2015. (Doc. 1-5 at p. 1). Plaintiffs claims culminated in the Court entering an order dismissing Plaintiffs complaint on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 57). In its ruling, the Court found that Plaintiff was unable to meet the prima facie case for claims of race-based discrimination, as Plaintiff had not made clear from the EEOC complaint that race based discrimination was one of her claims. (Doc. 57 at p. 8). The Court further found that Plaintiff had not established a proper comparator for her race-based discrimination claim - someone who was similarly situated to Plaintiff, but treated more favorably. (Id.).

         Concerning Plaintiffs retaliation claim, the Court found that Plaintiff did not plead relevant facts that would lead the Court to believe that she had been retaliated against for reporting activities barred by Title VII, which protects individuals on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, and national origin." The Court found that even if it were true that Plaintiffs manager came to work intoxicated and stole tips from the staff, such misdeeds were not discriminatory on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. (Id. at 11). The Court also found that Plaintiff did not have a "reasonable belief that her supervisor's activities were unlawful under Title VII, but that her ultimate complaint to management contained allegations of race discrimination, and therefore could be addressed under Title VII. (Id.). After assuming arguendo that Plaintiff established the prima facie case for race-based discrimination under Title VII, the Court found that Plaintiff failed to rebut Defendant's assertation of a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for her termination. (Id. at p. 14). Plaintiffs case was dismissed with prejudice on June 19, 2018. (Id.).

         Defendant filed an application to tax costs on July 3, 2018. (Doc. 58). No. response to the application to tax costs was submitted by Plaintiff. An order taxing costs in the amount of $2, 763.72 was entered against Plaintiff on August 28, 2018. (Doc. 59).

         II. ARGUMENTS

         Plaintiff first argues that while the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has generally recognized that the prevailing party is entitled to costs incurred participating in litigation, it is ultimately the Court's discretion to determine if such costs are warranted. (Doc. 6-1 at p. 2). Plaintiff further claims that if a Court decides to excuse the unsuccessful party from paying costs, it must explain its reasoning for doing so. (Id.) Further, Plaintiff claims that in order for the court to excuse the unsuccessful party from paying costs, the claim must be brought in good faith, and the moving party must have met at least one of five factors set forth in Wade v. Peterson, 416 Fed.Appx. 354, 356 (5th Cir. 2Oll)(citing Pacheco v. Mineta, 448 F.3d 783, 794 (5th Cir. 2006)[1]

         Plaintiff argues that because she brought her claim against Defendant in good faith, costs should not be taxed against her. (Doc. 6-1 at pp. 2-3). Plaintiff contends that although Defendant describes her claim as "baseless" the Court found that Plaintiff met the prima facie case for race-based discrimination, and only failed to rebut Defendant's purported non-discriminatory reason for her termination. (Id.). Plaintiff avers that it was objectively reasonable for her to believe that she had a claim against Defendant, and that she did not file the instant suit in bad faith.

         First, Plaintiff contends that she is of limited financial resources. (Id. at pp. 3-4). She argues that being assessed over $2, 500.00 in fees would have a major impact on her finances, and would be unfairly burdensome. (Id. at p. 4). Plaintiff next asserts that there is a massive wealth disparity between herself and Defendant. (Id. at p. 4). Plaintiff argues that Defendant is a multi-billion-dollar entity with locations across the United States, and that it would be inequitable to make Plaintiff, a party with limited means, pay costs that are trivial to Defendant.

         Plaintiff further claims that the instant matter contained close and difficult legal issues. Plaintiff claims that this case required the Court to explore the difficult question of whether plaintiffs can lodge Title VII claims in the presence of facial deficiencies on the face of an underlying EEOC charge. (Id. at p. 5). Plaintiff further claims that this Court had to determine whether a party could maintain a cause of action under Title VII when the complained of behavior did not involve claims of any activity covered by Title VII. (Id. at p. 6).

         Finally, Plaintiff claims that this case conferred a substantial benefit to the public. (Id. at p. 8). Plaintiff argues that her complaint gave the Court the opportunity to consider the bounds of how liberally a court should construe the intent of a layman who files a charge with the EEOC if the EEOC charge is unclear on its face. (Id. at p. 8).

         In the alternative, because 28 U.S.C. § 1920 contains no provisions for recovery of fees for private process servers and Freedom of Information Act requests, Plaintiffs amount owed should be reduced by at least $415.00.[2] (Id. at p. 9). Plaintiff argues that only in exceptional circumstances should a party be awarded costs for the use of a private process server. (Id.). Plaintiff claims that Defendant has not established that there was an exceptional circumstance present justifying costs being awarded for use of a private process server. (Id.). ...


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