Prevailing Party Gets Ordinary Costs Regardless

Does a prevailing party in a FEHA case have to show the lawsuit was frivolous, groundless or unreasonable in order to recover its ordinary costs?


California Government Code § 12965(b) says, “In civil actions brought under this section, the court, in its discretion, may award to the prevailing party, including the department, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including expert witness fees.”

Meanwhile, California Code of Civil Procedure § 1032 says, concerning prevailing parties, “…the court, in its discretion, may allow costs or not and, if allowed may apportion costs between the parties on the same or adverse sides pursuant to rules adopted under Section 1034.”

There is nothing in California law governing FEHA cases that requires a prevailing party to show the lawsuit was groundless, frivolous or unreasonable in order for the prevailing party to recover its ordinary costs.

In this case, defendant prevailed on a motion for summary judgment and sought costs. Plaintiff argued he should not be required to pay costs since his lawsuit was not frivolous. The court found that ordinary costs under CCP § 1032 are recoverable by the prevailing party as a matter of right and that Gov’t Code § 12965 does not state an exception to that rule.

Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist., 218 Cal. App. 4th 73 (2013).

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