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
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
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
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.