West Virginia University Hospitals Inc. v. Casey
499 U.S. 83 (1991)

  • Pennsylvania changed their Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals. West Virginia Hospitals (WVUH) did not like the change and sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983.
    • In preparation for the case, WVUH hired a number of expensive consultants and racked up over $100k in fees.
  • The Trial Court found for WVUH. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1988, WVUH asked for attorney's fees.
    • 42 U.S.C. 1988 has a provision that states that, "the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs."
      • But these experts weren't technically 'attorneys'.
  • The Trial Court awarded WVUH over $100k in attorney's fees. Pennsylvania appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed the verdict, but reversed on the fees. WVUH appealed.
    • The Appellate Court disallowed everything except the $30-per-day fees for witnesses prescribed by 28 U.S.C. 1821(b).
    • WVUH argued that their experts weren't 'witnesses' (they were non-testimonial experts), so that Statute shouldn't apply.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court looked to the plain language and found that the record of statutory usage demonstrated convincingly that attorney's fees and expert fees are regarded as separate elements of litigation cost. In addition, fees for non-testimonial experts are referred to in addition to attorney's fees in other Statutes when Congress intended the law to apply to both.
      • While some fee-shifting provisions, like 1988, refer only to "attorney's fees," many others explicitly shift expert witness fees as well as attorney's fees.
    • WVUH had argued that the term "attorney's fees" should include all fees; attorney's, witness' and expert's. But the Court found that if that were true, then dozens of other laws that mentioned fees separately would have redundant wording.
      • Basically, Congress has shown that when they meant both they have said both. They didn't say both in 1821(b), so they probably didn't mean both.
  • In a dissent it was argued that a look at the legislative history shows that Congress clearly intended to amend the Statute in this manner, but they did not amend the Statute 'enough'. It was unquestionable that they were trying to reverse the previous wording of the Statue.