Thursday, May 8, 2008
Courts May Reduce Deposition Transcript Fees for Non-Noticing Party—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A trial court has the authority to require a deposition reporter to provide a copy of a deposition transcript to a non-noticing party in a pending action and reduce the fee requested by the reporter in limited circumstances this district’s Court of Appeal held yesterday.
Reversing the lower court’s decision, Div. 3 concluded that if a court must intervene in a dispute arising from a deposition reporter’s refusal to provide a copy of a deposition transcript to a non-noticing party in a pending action or the reporter’s imposition of unacceptable conditions upon the delivery of the transcript, the court has discretion to require the non-noticing party to pay a “reasonable” fee.
Porfirio and Lourdes Serrano filed suit against Stefan Merli Plastering Company, Inc. The company noticed the depositions of several of the Serrano’s’ expert witnesses, and the depositions were reported by Coast Court Reporters.
The reporters later charged the Serranos $7,647.30 for the deposition reports, plus an additional $2,871.57 in “expedite fees.” After the Serranos objected to the amount, Coast agreed to provide the reports to the Serranos on the condition that the Serranos and Coast would be bound by the trial court’s ruling as to the reasonableness of the fees.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz found that Coast’s expedited service fees were “unconscionable,” but because he concluded that he had no authority to limit the fees charged, he ordered the Serranos to pay Coast.
Writing for the appellate court, however, Justice H. Walter Croskey said the trial court’s inherent power to insure the orderly administration of justice permitted the court to reduce the fees charged.
Croskey explained that a party noticing a deposition can select a reporter based on cost or other considerations, and can bargain for a better rate, but a non-noticing party has no control over the selection of the reporter of the fees charged by the reporter.
He advised trial courts to be cautious “not to lend assistance to overreaching by the deposition reporter” because this arrangement “provides no meaningful protection to the non-noticing party.”
Reasoning that a reporter’s refusal to provide a copy of a deposition transcript to a party in a pending action unless the party agrees to pay an unreasonable fee would be “grossly unfair,” Croskey concluded that “the only monetary condition that the court may properly place upon the non‑noticing party’s right to receive a copy of the deposition transcript would be payment of a reasonable fee.”
However, Croskey explained, the court’s holding is limited to situations where the non-noticing party and deposition reporter had no contractual agreement relating to the cost of a transcript and court intervention was required because the reporter has either refused to provide a transcript copy or is willing to do so only on the condition that the non-noticing party pay what it believes to be an unreasonable fee.
Presiding Justice Joan D. Klein and Justice Richard D. Aldrich joined Croskey in his opinion.
The case is Serrano v. Stefan Merli Plastering Company Inc. 08 S.O.S. 2692.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company