In our last post, we explained how Oklahoma law allows a party to recover attorney attorney fees after winning a lawsuit. The rule are attorney fees depends on the type of lawsuit.
In some cases, the winner is entitled to have his attorney fees paid by the losing side. But in many cases, attorney fees are not recoverable, even if you win.
In that last article, we noted that in all cases, the prevailing party is entitled to costs. In this blog post, we will explain what exactly the law considers to be “costs” and how those costs can be recovered.
What are “costs” in a lawsuit?
A lawsuit can involve many types of costs, separate from fees paid to the lawyer. The most basic are the filing fee paid to the court in order to even file the lawsuit. Then there are fees for issuing summons.
In Oklahoma, you must issue a Summons for each defendant named. So you pay one filing fee for the entire suit, but if the suit is against three separate individuals, then you issue a summons for each individual and pay for each of those. The summons is the notice issued by the Court Clerk directing the specifically named defendant to answer to lawsuit or else be in default.
A court may also have additional filing fees, such as a fee for any motion for summary judgment, and a fee for empaneling a jury.
Are costs recoverable if you win?
In Oklahoma, any party who obtains a judgment against another party is entitled to recover costs against that party. 12 O.S. § 928.
Similarly, any defendant who successfully defends a claim and obtains judgment against the party who brought the suit is also entitled to costs. 12 O.S. § 929
However, the costs that a party is allowed to recover is limited by statute. 12 O.S. § 942. Not all expenses from the lawsuit are recoverable.
Difference between “Taxable Costs” and “Non-Taxable Costs” in Oklahoma Courts
When the law says you may recover costs, it refers only to “taxable costs,” or those costs specifically identified by statute.
In Oklahoma courts, a judge may only award the following costs:
- Any fees assessed by the court clerk or the clerk of the appellate court;
- Reasonable expenses for the giving of notice, including expenses for service of summons and other judicial process and expenses for publication;
- Statutory witness fees and reasonable expenses for service of subpoenas;
- Costs of copying papers necessarily used at trial, limited to the amount authorized by law. If no amount is specified, costs of copying papers shall be limited to ten cents ($0.10) per page;
- Transcripts of the trial or another proceeding that the court determines are necessary to resolve the case;
- Reasonable expenses for taking and transcribing deposition testimony, for furnishing copies to the witness and opposing counsel, and for recording deposition testimony on videotape, but not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) per two-hour videotape, unless the court determines that a particular deposition was neither reasonable nor necessary; and
- Any other expenses authorized by law to be collected as costs.
Basically, any fees you pay to the Court are generally recoverable. Also recoverable are fees paid to court reporters for transcripts of court hearings as well as depositions. Of course, you must demonstrate that said transcript was necessary to obtaining the judgment.
Also recoverable are fees paid to witnesses for mileage and for process servers who served the subpoenas on the witness.
And finally, expenses for photocopies of exhibits and documents used in the trial are recoverable, but the rate per page is limited by statute, and I have found that it is way undervalued, especially when making high-gloss color copies for photos for exhibits at trial.
As you can see, the list of taxable costs excludes many of the expenses that are typically incurred in a personal injury lawsuit.
The most expensive part of any case is generally the expert witness, and fees paid for expert witnesses are not taxable.
Also of important note is that expert witnesses are permitted by law to charge a fee for a deposition. This fee is paid directly to the expert, and is separate from the fee paid to the court reporter for the stenography and taking of transcript of the deposition.
The fee paid to the court reporter is taxable; the fee paid directly to the expert is not.
In some cases, Attorney Fees are considered “Costs”
In some cases, attorney fees are taxed as costs. In these types of cases, there is generally a statute that says attorney fees are to be taxed as costs. Therefore, the party who obtains a judgment may seek an award for costs, using that list of taxable costs above, and may also add to that list the attorney fees they incurred.