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W. Va. Univ. Hosps. v. Casey

(1991)

Supreme Court of the United States - 499 U.S. 83

tl;dr:

Expert fees do not count as attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, so pursuant to that statute, a losing party does not have to pay the fees incurred by the winner in hiring experts.

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Case Summary

In the 1991 case W. Va. Univ. Hosps. v. Casey, the US Supreme Court decided on an issue involving expert fees in a civil rights lawsuit. The hospital (plaintiff) sued Pennsylvania officials (defendants), alleging violations of federal law in setting Medicaid reimbursement rates. The plaintiff won the trial and was awarded attorney's fees, including fees for experts, under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

The defendants appealed, arguing expert fees weren't part of the attorney's fee authorized by § 1988. The Court of Appeals reversed the expert fees award, except for the $30-per-day witness fees per 28 U.S.C. §§ 1920 and 1821. The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the Court of Appeals' ruling. The Court held expert fees couldn't be included in the attorney's fee under § 1988, based on statutory interpretation.

This case is important because it highlights fee-shifting principles and limitations in civil rights lawsuits. Fee-shifting allows the court to require the losing party to pay the winning party's legal expenses, such as attorney's fees or expert fees, to encourage private enforcement of civil rights laws, deter frivolous litigation, and promote access to justice for plaintiffs. However, fee-shifting is subject to statutory authorization and interpretation, which might impose restrictions on recoverable fees or costs. The case also shows how courts may rely on statutory text, rather than legislative history, to resolve ambiguities or conflicts in fee-shifting statutes.

ICRAIssue, Conclusion, Rule, Analysis for W. Va. Univ. Hosps. v. Casey

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Facts & HoldingW. Va. Univ. Hosps. v. Casey case brief facts & holding

Facts:The governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey, changed the Medicaid reimbursement...

Holding:Holding (Scalia): 42 U.S.C. § 1988 provides for an award...

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W. Va. Univ. Hosps. v. Casey | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: Justice Scalia
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The Supreme Court ruled that expert witness fees can be recovered under fee-shifting provisions that explicitly include them, but not under provisions that only refer to attorney's fees. The court established that attorney's fees and expert fees are separate expenses, and prior to 1976, federal courts did not include expert fees as part of attorney's fees. The court rejected the argument that expert fees should be included in fee-shifting provisions that only refer to attorney's fees, as expert fees are not traditionally considered attorney's fees. The court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Dissenting opinion, author: Justice Marshall,Justice Stevens
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The case discussed the interpretation of a fee-shifting provision and whether expert witness fees could be awarded without express authorization. The court held that expert witness fees are valid in fee-shifting statutes, but law clerk and paralegal fees cannot be separately awarded. The purpose of the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976 was to level the playing field so that private citizens could still afford to bring actions to enforce civil rights laws, including expert witness fees. The court has held that expert witness fees are a substitute for lawyer time and excluding them from reimbursement is arbitrary and contrary to the broad remedial purpose of the fee-shifting provision.

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