Serrano, et al. v. Stefan Merli PlasteringAnnotate this Case
Plaintiffs objected to paying an extra fee for an expedited transcript of a deposition noticed by defendant. Plaintiffs won an appeal establishing that trial courts have the authority to determine the reasonableness of fees charged by deposition reports to nonnoticing parties. On remand, the trial court found that the fee charged to plaintiffs was unreasonable, but denied their motion for an award of attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. Relying on Adoption of Joshua S., that court concluded that plaintiffs had acted in their own interest and only incidentally conferred a benefit on other litigants. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The court concluded, however, that Joshua S had no application here where deposition reporters were officers of the court, regulated by statute, who perform a public service of considerable importance to litigants and members of the public. The reporting service here did not merely seek to vindicate its private rights. It defended its institutional interest in controlling the fees it charged and sought to shield itself from judicial review of its conduct as a ministerial officer of the court. Moreover, it was found to have charged plaintiffs an unreasonable fee. Therefore, the courts erred by concluding that the service did nothing adverse to the public interest and that plaintiffs' appeal did not involve an important right affecting the public interest. Because neither the Court of Appeal nor the trial court considered whether plaintiffs satisfied the other elements required for a fee award under section 1021.5, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.