I remember reading there has been a lawsuit filed against court reporters charging attorneys ordering copy sales rates more in line with original costs and charging the attorney taking the deposition (their client with whom they have a contract) lower rates than the copy rate charged.

Can anyone please tell me where the lawsuit was filed?

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Comment by Cynthia Dunbar on August 5, 2013 at 17:13

Sorry my comment is so late, but I didn't see Serrano v. Coast mentioned yet. This case has to do with plaintiff's counsel suing over expedite fees, though - so I suspect you're thinking of something else. But just thought I should throw this one out there...

Justices Overturns C.A. Ruling on Private Attorney General Law

Attorneys Who Fought Court Reporters Over Transcript Fees Win Reversal




The attorneys who secured a ruling that trial courts have authority to review fees charged to non-noticing parties for expedited deposition transcripts may be entitled to fees under the private attorney general statute, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

The justices, in a 6-1 ruling, reversed a contrary decision of this district’s Court of Appeal. The high court held that the plaintiffs’ attorneys in a personal injury case in Los Angeles Superior Court vindicated an important public right, and sent the case back to the trial court to determine whether the other criteria for a fee award were met. 

The ruling stems from a personal injury suit by Porfirio and Lourdes Serrano against Stefan Merli Plastering Company, Inc. The company’s attorneys noticed the depositions of several of the Serrano’s’ expert witnesses, and the depositions were reported by Coast Court Reporters.

After the defense attorneys ordered expedited transcripts of the depositions, the plaintiffs’ lawyers asked to have their copies expedited as well. The fees charged by the court reporters included $261.56 for expediting delivery.

Transcripts Furnished

After the plaintiffs objected to the amount, the reporting firm initially would not provide the transcripts without payment, but ultimately agreed to furnish them, subject to the court’s ruling as to the reasonableness of the charges and the plaintiffs’ obligation to pay them.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz, now retired,  found that Coast’s expedited service fees were “unconscionable,” but concluded that he had no authority to limit the fees charged. The Court of Appeal, however, held in Serrano v. Stefan Merli Plastering Co., Inc. (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 1014 that the trial court’s inherent power to insure the orderly administration of justice permitted it to reduce the fees charged.

On remand, Munoz ruled that the expedite charges were unreasonable and granted the plaintiffs a refund, plus interest. But he denied their motion for $50,000 in attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 1021.5, holding that the plaintiffs were “not trying to vindicate the public’s interest.”

The Court of Appeal affirmed, over the dissent of Justice Walter Croskey, who wrote the earlier opinion. The panel held that the litigation stemmed from a “private business disagreement” between the parties, rather than an effort to enforce an important public right.

But Justice Carol Corrigan, writing for the high court, said the plaintiffs had obtained a ruling that establishes an important principle and will affect many future litigants.

“While the proceedings in the trial court regarding transcript charges might be deemed a minor dispute limited to the circumstances of this litigation, on appeal Coast strenuously defended its institutional interest in controlling the fees charged to a nonnoticing party without judicial oversight,” Corrigan wrote.

Important Rights

The Court of Appeal’s opinion in the first appeal, the justice added, “makes it plain that the court was addressing statutory and constitutional rights of considerable public importance” in resolving unsettled questions as to whether the statute allowing deposition reporters to determine their fees contains an implied reasonableness requirement, and whether the court in which an action is pending is the proper forum for resolving a dispute over the fees.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye joined in the opinion, as did Justices Marvin Baxter, Ming Chin, Kathryn M. Werdegar, and Goodwin H. Liu. The lone dissenter was Justice Joyce L. Kennard, who argued that the expedite fee was not unreasonable, given that it was “less than half of [Coast’s] charge for the original requested by defendant.”

Attorneys who argued in the Supreme Court were Stephen Monroe, of the Law Offices of David B. Bloom, for the plaintiffs and John L. Dodd for Coast Court Reporters.

The case is Serrano v. Stefan Merli Plastering Co., Inc., 11 S.O.S. 5832.

Comment by Quyen on July 18, 2013 at 17:52

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, and I'm no lawyer, but it's called capitalism/free enterprise. There is no law that regulates the cost of copies. So what are the merits of the case? It's a product, and companies can set whatever price they want.

Comment by Martha R on July 18, 2013 at 14:02

Barbara:  I have not heard of that lawsuit, but I would be all for it. 

Comment by Mary Jo Cochran on July 17, 2013 at 17:49

I joined a teacher website, for making lesson plans and selling them.  The website people adds a charge for "teachers who will be sharing".  I put an essay on for sale for $2.00.  The website added $1.00.

It's too bad a website cannot be set up where attorneys have to order their transcript through the website, have to pay in advance, and have to download.  Or, offer a certain rate comparative to all the attorneys involved in the matter, thereby requiring all attorneys to order.

Comment by Barbara Glover on July 17, 2013 at 4:41

Martha:  I am aware of the lawsuit you mentioned.  I didn't make myself clear in my post that the lawsuit has been filed BY attorneys against court reporting firms doing contracting and charging exorbitant rates for the copy sale and charging their client much less for the original.  I read about it recently on some forum and was wanting to forward info to someone.  

Comment by Martha R on July 16, 2013 at 22:49

I have heard of firms doing that like Esquire, but I haven't heard there was a lawsuit over it.  There is a lawsuit going on now for CR firms not paying reporters for copies of transcripts ordered.

Comment by Kelli Combs (admin) on July 16, 2013 at 19:23

Boy, that's the first I heard of that. 

When I saw the title of your post, I was hoping reporters had sued attorneys "Finally" for copying transcripts for which they had not ordered a copy.  In essence, copying our work product.  I was all excited.  Too bad I was mistaken.

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