Post-Trial and Post-Judgment Matters

Discretionary Costs

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion. 

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals

Jones v. Jones, No. M2022-00624-COA-R3-CV, p. 7 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 17, 2023).

Accordingly, this Court employs a “deferential standard when reviewing a trial court’s decision either to grant or to deny motions to assess these costs” and we “are generally disinclined to second-guess a trial court’s decision unless the trial court has abused its discretion.” Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Jefferson, 104 S.W.3d 13, 35 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002) (citations omitted). As the Tennessee Supreme Court has explained:

An abuse of discretion occurs when a court strays beyond the applicable legal standards or when it fails to properly consider the factors customarily used to guide the particular discretionary decision. A court abuses its discretion when it causes an injustice to the party challenging the decision by (1) applying an incorrect legal standard, (2) reaching an illogical or unreasonable decision, or (3) basing its decision on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence.

Lee Med., Inc. v. Beecher, 312 S.W.3d 515, 524 (Tenn. 2010) (citations omitted).

Seely v. Geico Advantage Insurance Co., No. M2021-01263-COA-R3-CV, p. 6 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 6, 2023).

With regard to the award of expenses related to a motion for discretionary costs, we review the trial court’s decision under an abuse of discretion standard. See Meyer Laminates (SE), Inc. v. Primavera Distrib., Inc., 293 S.W.3d 162, 168 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2008). To ascertain whether a decision constitutes an abuse of discretion, “we review the trial court’s decision to determine whether the factual basis for the decision is properly supported by the evidence in the record, whether the trial court properly identified and applied the most appropriate legal principles applicable to the decision, and whether the trial court’s decision was within the range of acceptable alternative dispositions.” Id. (citing Gooding v. Gooding, 477 S.W.3d 774, 781 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015)).

Gergel v. Gergel, No. E2020-01534-COA-R3-CV, p. 70- 71 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 26, 2022).

This Court reviews an award of discretionary costs pursuant to an abuse of discretion standard. Carpenter v. Klepper, 205 S.W.3d 474, 489 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006).

Concerning the assessment of discretionary costs, this Court has explained:

Pursuant to rule 54.04, trial courts are vested with wide discretion in awarding discretionary costs, and this court will not interfere with such an award except upon an affirmative showing that the trial court abused its discretion. Generally, trial courts award such costs to whichever party ultimately prevails in the lawsuit, provided the prevailing party has filed a timely, properly supported motion. The successful party is not, however, automatically entitled to an award of costs. Instead, trial courts are free to apportion costs between the litigants as the equities of each case demand. Accordingly, if any equitable basis appears in the record which will support the trial court’s apportionment of costs, this court must affirm. Moreover, on appeal, the appellant bears the burden of showing that the trial court abused its discretion in its assessment of costs.

Sanders v. Gray, 989 S.W.2d 343, 345 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998) (internal citations omitted).

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