Adding to a circuit court split on the issue, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a district court ruling awarding the costs of translating documents to the prevailing party in litigation involving injuries allegedly sustained by a professional baseball player who fell through a wooden deck at a marina and spa property.

Taniguchi v. Kan Pac. Saipan, Ltd., No. 09-15212 (9th Cir., decided March 8, 2011). The district court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and awarded the company the costs of translating documents from Japanese to English on the basis of 28 U.S.C. § 1920(6), which gives the courts discretion to award fees for the compensation of interpreters in addition to the costs of “special interpretation services under section 1828.”

Recognizing that one circuit (the Seventh) has limited the section’s “interpretation services” to apply to those translating the spoken word only, the Ninth Circuit found persuasive Sixth Circuit authority allowing an award of costs for the translation of documents necessary for litigation. The Sixth Circuit relied on a dictionary definition of “interpret,” which apparently includes “to translate into intelligible or familiar language,” and concluded that “translation” services and “interpretation” services are interchangeable. The Ninth Circuit also noted that this analysis is compatible with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54, “which includes a decided preference for the award of costs to the prevailing party.”

Because the plaintiff alleged that his injuries affected his compensation under negotiated contract deals, the court found that it was necessary for the defendant to have his documents and medical records translated to “adequately prepare its defense.” Thus, the court held “that the district court acted within its discretion when it determined that translation services were necessary to render pertinent documents intelligible to the litigants.”