Trial Court Properly Found They Were “Reasonably Necessary.”
In Green v. County of Riverside, Case No. D067424 (4th Dist., Div. 1 July 29, 2015) (published), plaintiff lost an unreasonable police force civil rights case. Later, the trial judge awarded defendants $66,453.02 in costs, $40,610.68 of which constituted paralegal fees for helping prepare/present electronic evidence at trial—deposition video testimony and audio recording exhibits/excerpts. Plaintiff’s challenge to the award of paralegal fees as costs was not successful on appeal.
The appellate court found that plaintiff’s appeal of the judgment also operated to preserve review of the costs award, given the costs were added into a blank line in the earlier judgment. (Grant v. List & Lathrop, 2 Cal.App.4th 993, 996-997 (1992).)
On the merits, the paralegal fees were neither authorized nor prohibited as costs, which meant the trial judge had discretion to award them if they were found to be “reasonably necessary” to the litigation. Given that use of technicians to monitor electronic equipment is commonplace, Bender v. County of Los Angeles, 217 Cal.App.4th 968, 990 (2013), the lower court was within reason to award paralegal fees as costs for the tasks relating to presentation of electronic evidence at trial.