Are Deposition and Trial Interpreter Costs Recoverable by the Prevailing Party?

Does the Losing Party Have to Pay the Prevailing Party’s Costs for Deposition and Trial Testimony Interpreters?

We’ve blogged about the fundamental difference between the legal document translators and the oral language interpreters outlined in Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, which accounts for the fact that only the fees for deposition interpreters and trial interpreters- and not the fees charged by the legal translators of written documents- are reimbursable as “compensation of interpreters”.  Today’s case deals with a trade secret misappropriation. The name of the case is Motorola Solutions, Inc. v. Hytera Communications Corp. Ltd. Dist. Court, ND Illinois, 2021. The case started with Motorola’s allegations that Hytera recruited three engineers away from Motorola’s Malaysian office. The engineers, Motorola alleged, stole thousands of trade secrets from Motorola and took them to Hytera. It was further alleged that these trade secrets were then used by Hytera to develop a state-of-the-art digital radio which was virtually the same as Motorola’s. Motorola then brought forth a suit based on the allegations that Hytera had unlawfully appropriated Motorola’s trade secrets. The case was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Discovery proceeded, and depositions were done thereafter. Motorola deposed a number of Hytera’s employees, using the services of Mandarin Chinese deposition interpreters. The case eventually went to trial. A U.S. jury awarded a verdict of approximately $764.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages in favor of Motorola.

In Addition to Deposition Interpreters’ Fees, What Other Costs Is the Prevailing Party Entitled to?

Thereafter, Motorola filed a bill of costs with the Court, seeking to be compensated for the trial costs. In the bill of costs, Motorola requested to be compensated for the costs of the depositions of the defendant’s witnesses, including the cost of Mandarin deposition interpreting services. Motorola had deposed over 50 individuals as part of this case, many of whom were based in China and testified through English to Mandarin deposition interpreters. The Court pointed out that the prevailing party seeking to recover costs must show that the costs had been necessary and reasonable. Accordingly, Motorola asked for costs of the depositions.

Motorola also asked for the costs of videotaping the depositions of the defendant’s Mandarin-speaking witnesses. The Court pointed out that generally the costs of videotaping are not recoverable because such videotapes are only done for the convenience of the deposing counsel. However, in this case, the Court pointed out it was reasonably necessary to videotape the depositions because there was uncertainty concerning whether the Chinese-speaking witnesses, many of whom resided in China, would testify at trial.

Therefore, it was reasonably necessary for Motorola to videotape the depositions involving Mandarin deposition interpreters, so it could play them at trial should some of the witnesses miss the trial. In fact, the Court further noted, that Motorola did end up playing some of the deposition video recordings at trial. Motorola also sought costs for the real time transcription of the testimony of the Mandarin-speaking witnesses. The Court found these costs to be reasonable and necessary noting that the technical nature of this case warranted real time English transcription of the interpreted testimonies of the Mandarin-speaking witnesses.

Motorola also sought costs for scanning some documents to be used as deposition exhibits. The Court noted that it was necessary to use these exhibits at the deposition because Motorola had used those documents when filing certain pre-trial documents. The use of the exhibits with pre-trial documents showed the Court that they were reasonably necessary to Motorola’s case. Motorola also sought costs it bore for Hytera cancelling four depositions. The Court found that those depositions were cancelled through Haytera’s fault, and, therefore, awarded the costs to Motorola.

Does the Losing Side Have to Pay the Fees for Check Interpreter’s Cancelled Services?

Apart from the above, Motorola also sought costs for using English to Mandarin check interpreters, who were supposed to be utilized at trial. A check interpreter is an interpreter who is hired to verify that another party’s interpreter is correctly interpreting the testimony of a non-English-speaking witness. Motorola had hired Mandarin check interpreters to be used at trial for the testimony of Hytera’s Chinese-speaking chairman. However, at the last minute Hytera informed Motorola that he would not be appearing at trial. The Court found that the potential use of a check interpreter was a necessary expense because even during the Mandarin deposition a dispute had arisen over the English-Mandarin interpreting that had been provided. Accordingly, Motorola was also awarded the costs it had incurred due to the cancellation of the Mandarin check interpreters’ services.

Prevailing Party Entitled to Deposition Interpreter Fees, Check Interpreter Fees, and Cancellation Fees for Not Using Check Interpreters

It follows that a prevailing party can ask for deposition costs, including deposition interpreter fees, check interpreter fees, and cancellation fees for not using deposition interpreters, trial testimony interpreters, and check interpreters when deposition or trial testimony of the defendant’s witness is cancelled prior to the deposition date, or the trial testimony date. The prevailing party must show that the costs were necessary and reasonable. If this burden has been met, then the defendant must compensate the plaintiff for these costs.

Get in touch with the legal interpreting service All Language Alliance, Inc. to hire court-certified interpreters and check interpreters for depositions and for trial testimony. We have experienced court interpreters fluent in Mandarin, French, German, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Portuguese, Mongolian, Turkish, Spanish, and other foreign languages.

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