ROBERT PEASE v. THE CHARLOTTE HUNGERFORD

HOSPITAL et al., SC 19761

Judicial District of Litchfield

 

       Costs; Contempt; Whether Trial Court has Authority to Enforce Order of Costs by Holding Party in Contempt.  The plaintiff brought this medical malpractice action, and the trial court rendered judgment in favor of the defendant in accordance with the jury’s verdict.  The defendant filed a bill of costs pursuant to General Statutes §§ 52-257 and 52-260m, which permit a prevailing party in a civil action to recover enumerated costs of litigation, and the court awarded the defendant $5965 in costs.  The defendant filed a motion for contempt after the plaintiff failed to pay the costs.  The trial court denied the motion for contempt, ruling that an order taxing costs cannot be enforced by means of a court’s contempt power.  The court explained that an order taxing costs is akin to a judgment awarding money damages and therefore that a party seeking to collect costs must utilize the same mechanisms that are available for enforcing a money judgment, including the postjudgment procedures set out in Chapter 906 of the General Statutes.  The defendant appeals, claiming that the trial court improperly concluded that it lacked the inherent authority to compel the plaintiff to comply with its order taxing costs.  The defendant maintains that a trial court has broad equitable authority to compel compliance with its orders and that the existence of a statutory remedy does not preempt that equitable authority.