The prevailing party should be awarded costs for services required to interpret either live speech or written documents into a familiar language, so long as interpretation of the items was necessary to the litigation.
During a tour of property owned by defendant corporation, plaintiff guest, a professional baseball player in Japan, fell through a wooden deck. Plaintiff instituted a negligence action against defendant. Following a grant of summary judgment in defendant’s favor, the district court awarded costs to defendant for translation services incurred in the course of the litigation. Plaintiff appealed the award of costs, contending that the district court erred because defendant’s insurance company assumed responsibility for all costs incurred by defendant during the litigation. The appellate court affirmed the award of costs for translation services.
Should the costs for expense incurred to translate relevant documents be awarded to prevailing defendant corporation, whose defense costs were paid by its insurer?
Plaintiff guest’s contention was applicable only in situations where an insurance company satisfied the insured's claim and then sued the tortfeasor as the insured's successor-in-interest. The same analysis did not apply to a defendant whose defense costs were paid by its insurer. Unlike an insured whose claim had been fully satisfied, the defendant who remains liable for any money damages awarded to the plaintiff was still very much an interested party. If the court was to adopt plaintiff’s suggested analysis, a plaintiff could file lawsuits against an insured defendant without incurring litigation costs after losing on the merits. Further, because 28 U.S.C.S. § 1920(6) contemplated the award of costs for translation services, the district court acted within its discretion when it determined that translation services were necessary to render pertinent documents intelligible to the litigants.