James A. Ruggieri Interviewed by Lawyers Weekly on Award of Costs in Federal Litigation

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney’s managing partner, James A. Ruggieri, features prominently in a recent Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly article regarding the award of costs in federal litigation. The article centers on a recent decision by Justice Dennis Saylor IV, Chief Judge of the United States Federal District Court in Massachusetts in In re: Zofran Products Liability Litigation, a multidistrict product liability case alleging that the anti-nausea drug Zofran caused birth defects. After ruling that plaintiffs’ claims against GlaxoSmithKline were preempted by federal law, Justice Saylor awarded GSK $459,989 in litigation costs pursuant to Rule 54 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The vast majority of these costs were expenses incurred in obtaining copies of the plaintiffs’ medical records.

As a prominent product liability defense attorney in Rhode Island, Lawyer’s Weekly reached out to Mr. Ruggieri for comment on the ruling. Mr. Ruggieri’s comments highlighted several important aspects of Justice Saylor’s ruling, chief among them that In re Zofran provides much needed guidance for counsel about when costs may be awarded and what standard will be used to determine what costs are reasonable and necessary. “The care really does lay out what Rule 54 says and what the corresponding statute—28 U.S.C. § 1920—requires,” he told Lawyers Weekly. “For that reason alone, it’s very helpful. There aren’t a lot of these decisions.”

Mr. Ruggieri also noted that Judge Saylor’s opinion recognizes a presumption in favor of costs being awarded to the prevailing party under Rule 54(d)(1), which is sometimes overlooked by courts and by litigants.

Finally, Mr. Ruggieri credited both Judge Saylor and GSK for their attention to detail in accounting for the costs awarded. “The court really does a good job explaining why it was important for GSK’s lawyers to go out and get the medical records for each of these hundreds of plaintiffs in this multidistrict litigation,” he said. Likewise, “GSK was careful not to charge for the costs of services they used or the costs to digitize or index [the records].” By seeking only the “raw costs that each medical provider charged to get that first copy—and only that”—Mr. Ruggieri said, GSK was able to preempt arguments that its claim for costs was over-expansive, unreasonable, and punitive.

Mr. Ruggieri joined HCC in 1984 and has been a partner in the firm since 1990. He is a sustaining member of the Product Liability Advisory Council, an association of more than 100 leading product manufacturers and 350 of the foremost product liability defense counsel in the United States and abroad. He has also been recognized on multiple occasions by both The American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel for his outstanding achievement in the fields of product liability and insurance law.

The full article from the March 25, 2024 edition of Rhode Island Lawyer’s Weekly is available here. For further information regarding Mr. Ruggieri’s expertise in product liability and other practice areas, please see his biography here.