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Litigation: Lost in translation

How the Supreme Court can change the landscape of awarding costs

The Supreme Court reconvenes this week to begin its 2011-2012 term. While the docket is full of well-publicized cases, the less heralded case, Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, LTD, 633 F.3d 1218 (9th Cir. 2011) may have an untold impact on the extent to which courts can award prevailing parties their litigation costs. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split among the 6th, 7th and 9th Circuits regarding whether district courts can use 28 U.S.C. § 1920(6) to allow a prevailing party to recover the money spent for translating documents into another language. However, if the court addresses the reasoning that underlies Taniguchi, the potential impact of the case can reach well beyond the victor recouping its costs for using an interpreter; it can affect how parties conduct discovery as a whole.

Taniguchi arose out of a general slip-and-fall. Taniguchi, a professional Japanese baseball player, fell through a wooden deck while on Kan Pacific property and suffered several torn ligaments. Because the injuries precluded him from playing professional baseball, Taniguchi was forced to breach his baseball contract. In an attempt to recover his lost wages, he sued Kan Pacific for negligence, ultimately losing when the court granted Kan Pacific summary judgment. Adding insult to injury, the court awarded Kan Pacific costs incurred for translating Taniguchi’s baseball contract, as well as other documents, from Japanese to English. The court relied on § 1920(6) for the authority in making its decision. Taniguchi appealed the award.

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Matthew Ingber

Matthew Ingber is a litigation partner at Mayer Brown.

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