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Weinstein v. Beach

Supreme Court of Wyoming

December 22, 2014

SONJIA WEINSTEIN and TREY WARREN, Appellants (Defendants),
v.
GARY BEACH and SUSAN BEACH, husband and wife, Appellees (Plaintiffs)

Page 1014

Appeal from the District Court of Fremont County. The Honorable Norman E. Young, Judge.

Representing Appellants: Jason A. Neville of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C., Casper, WY.

Representing Appellees: David B. Hooper of Hooper Law Offices, P.C., Riverton, WY.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.

OPINION

HILL, Justice.

Page 1015

[¶1] Gary and Susan Beach (Plaintiffs) filed a complaint against Sonja Weinstein and Trey Warren (Defendants) alleging injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by Defendants' failure to maintain a property they rented to Plaintiffs. Defendants made a W.R.C.P. 68 offer of settlement, which Plaintiffs did not accept. Following a jury verdict in Defendants' favor, Defendants filed a motion for costs in the amount of $45,410.62 pursuant to W.R.C.P. 68, W.R.C.P. 54(d), and U.R.D.C. 501. Applying U.R.D.C. 501, the district court entered an order awarding Defendants costs in the amount of $1,326.05. Defendants appeal, contending that the court erred in applying U.R.D.C. 501 to an award of costs under W.R.C.P. 68. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Defendants state the issue on appeal as follows:

I. Whether the district court abused its discretion by denying the majority of the costs requested by [Defendants pursuant to Wyo. R. Civ. P. 68?

FACTS

[¶3] On August 11, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants alleging injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a gas stove on a property Plaintiffs were renting from Defendants. On August 8, 2012, Defendants made a $5,000 offer of settlement to Plaintiffs pursuant to W.R.C.P. 68. Plaintiffs did not accept the offer.

[¶4] The matter was tried to a jury on August 19-23, 2013, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants. On September 17, 2013, the district court issued a Judgment Upon Jury Verdict. In addition to entering judgment in favor of Defendants, the court ordered that " Defendants are entitled to costs pursuant to W.R.C.P. Rule 54 and U.R.D.C. Rule 501 and that the parties shall comply with such rules if costs are sought by Defendants."

[¶5] On September 23, 2013, Defendants filed a motion and statement for costs pursuant to W.R.C.P. 54, W.R.C.P. 68, and U.R.D.C. 501. Through that motion, Defendants sought an award of costs in the amount of $45,410.62, which Defendants asserted were the total costs incurred subsequent to their August 8, 2012 Rule 68 offer of settlement. On October 7, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their objection to Defendants' statement of costs and contended that the allowable costs totaled only $1,326.05.

[¶6] On December 17, 2013, the district court entered an order awarding Defendants costs in the amount of $1,326.05. The court agreed that Plaintiffs' objection had accurately identified the only allowable costs, which were costs for three depositions and a portion

Page 1016

of the court reporter's fees. The court explained, footnote omitted:

Pursuant to Rule 68 of the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure, the defendants are entitled to recover their costs subsequent to their offer as the jury found in defendants' favor. Rule 501 of the Uniform Rules for the District Court sets forth allowable costs. Without belaboring the point, the vast majority of the items detailed in the defendants' $45,410.62 claim are simply not allowable costs. A significant number are not costs at all, as that term is generally understood and utilized in Rule 501, but are personal expenses of counsel which are in no sense " costs" related to this litigation.

[¶7] On January 10, 2014, Defendants filed their notice of appeal from the district court's order ...


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