In a world of increasingly massive discovery bills—the million-dollar vendor bill here, the occasional $19 million spent on attorneys’ fees during discovery there—it’s nice to see discovery costs that seem, well, pretty reasonable.
No, we’re not talking about the benefits of the cloud and predictable per-GB pricing or any of that. We’re talking about pizza. One large cheese pizza and a side of breadsticks, for a total of $31.19, to be exact. That $31 and change was just part of a pro se litigant’s recent request for sanctions over discovery misconduct—a request the court granted, breadsticks and all.
Fail to Produce Emails, Get Stuck With the Pizza Bill
The pizza-sanction case, as we’re calling it, comes to us from San Francisco’s Superior Court, by way of Above the Law, and began as something of a roommate dispute. One roommate, who we’ll call Alice (a pseudonym), accuses her former roommate Matt (again a pseudonym) of refusing to cash her rent checks when she left San Francisco for a few months of college in Massachusetts. When Alice returned, according to her complaint, she was told she no longer lived there. As the master tenant, Alice alleges, Matt was acting as a landlord and, by booting her to the curb, violated California and San Francisco’s eviction laws—one of 11 other causes of action claimed in her suit.
This is where the pizza comes in. After a few months of legal back and forth, Alice moved for sanctions over Matt’s failure to disclose an email. Specifically, Alice argued, the defendant’s third amended response to a form interrogatory referenced an email that was not listed or identified in an earlier response.
According to Alice:
As a result of defendant[‘s] failure to meet and confer, his meritless objections and other abuses of the discovery process, I estimate that I have incurred and necessarily will incur the following reasonable expenses:
$82.00 for printing and photocopying the moving papers,
$45.00 for transportation to and from court,
$6.50 for printing meet and confer correspondence for archival purposes,
$50.00 for research-related expenses,
$31.19 for a large cheese pizza and breadsticks to get one of my friends Erika Dale, to proofread the moving papers for me,
$10.99 for e-filing.
In-Kind Legal Services?
While you don’t see pizza costs typically listed as a litigation expense, the plaintiff makes a compelling case for their inclusion. The cost of paralegal services, she writes, “are claimable as sanctions for abuses of the discovery process. I’m simply being specific about the nature of the payment. I would imagine a paralegal’s usual rate would be much higher than the sum of $31.19 presented in my Declaration.”
The court seems to have found her request convincing. As the defendant’s initial responses “did not constitute good faith compliance with the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure,” the court ordered sanctions of $250 to be paid by Matt and his attorney.
That $250 might not seem too weighty when compared to a vendor’s $20,000 “hibernated subcollection fee” or 59,000 hours of attorney doc review—or even when put up against your typical San Francisco rents, for that matter. But it does buy eight orders of cheese pizza and breadsticks.