Mass. R. Civ. P. 54

As amended through July 8, 2020
Rule 54 - Judgments: Costs
(a) Definition; Form. The terms "judgment" and "final judgment" include a decree and mean the act of the trial court finally adjudicating the rights of the parties affected by the judgment, including:
(1) judgments entered under Rule 50(b) and Rule 52(a) and (b);
(2) judgments entered under Rule 58 upon a general verdict of a jury, or upon a decision by the court that a party shall recover only a sum certain or costs or that all relief shall be denied, or upon a special verdict under Rule 49(a) or a general verdict accompanied by answers to interrogatories under Rule 49(b).

A judgment shall not contain a recital of pleadings, the report of a master or the record of prior proceedings.

(b) Judgment Upon Multiple Claims or Involving Multiple Parties. When more than one claim for relief is presented in an action, whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct the entry of a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties only upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an express direction for the entry of judgment. In the absence of such determination and direction, any order or other form of decision however designated, which adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties shall not terminate the action as to any of the claims or parties, and the order or other form of decision is subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties.
(c) Demand for Judgment. A judgment by default shall not be different in kind from that prayed for in the demand for judgment. If only damages that are a sum certain or a sum which can by computation be made certain are demanded, a judgment by default shall not exceed the amount demanded. Except as to a party against whom a judgment is entered by default, every final judgment shall grant the relief to which the party in whose favor it is rendered is entitled, even if the party has not demanded such relief in his pleadings.
(d) Costs. Except when express provision therefor is made either in a statute of the Commonwealth or in these rules, costs shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs; but costs against the Commonwealth, its officers, and agencies shall be imposed only to the extent permitted by law. Except for those costs which are subject to the discretion of the court, costs shall be taxed by the clerk according to law.

Costs which are subject to the discretion of the court may be taxed by the court upon 5 days' notice. Costs which are taxable by the clerk may be taxed without notice unless a party notifies the clerk at any time after judgment and before execution that he desires to be present at the taxation of costs. Such notification shall be in writing and entered on the docket. If such notification is given, the clerk shall set a time for the taxation of costs, and shall give notice to all interested parties. The clerk shall include in the costs taxed only such items as are shown by the record and files at the time of taxation. On motion served within 5 days after receipt of notice of taxation of costs by the clerk, the action of the clerk may be reviewed by the court.

A party claiming costs shall file such certificates, affidavits and vouchers pertaining to items of costs, as he desires to have considered in taxing costs. Copies of such certificates, affidavits and vouchers shall be served by said party upon all other parties at least 5 days prior to the taxation of costs.

Whenever costs are awarded to two adverse parties in the same case, the court may order one sum to be set off against the other. If such set-off is not ordered, each party may have execution for the costs due him.

(e) Costs on Depositions. The taxation of costs in the taking of depositions, including audio-visual depositions, shall be subject to the discretion of the court, but in no event shall costs be allowed unless the court finds that the taking of the deposition was reasonably necessary, whether or not the deposition was actually used at the trail. Taxable costs may include the cost of service of subpoena upon the deponent, the reasonable fees of the officer before whom the deposition is taken, the fees and mileage allowances of the witnesses, the stenographer's reasonable fee for attendance, and the cost of the transcript of the testimony or such part thereof as the court may fix. When an audio-visual deposition is taken, taxable costs may include a reasonable fee for the use of the audio-visual equipment and for the services of the operator both in recording the deposition and editing it.
(f) Interest. Every judgment for the payment of money shall bear interest up to the date of payment of said judgment. Interest accrued up to the date of entry of a judgment shall be computed by the clerk according to law. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, interest from the date of entry of a judgment to the date of execution or order directing the payment of said judgment shall also be computed by the clerk, and the amount of such interest shall be stated on the execution or order.

Mass. R. Civ. P. 54

Content of note deleted eff. Jan. 1, 2013. Amended April 18, 1980, effective July 1, 1980; December 16, 1980, effective January 1, 1981; October 24, 2012, effective January 1, 2013.

Reporter's Notes

(2013): The amendment to Rule 54(c) in 2013 was part of a group of amendments to Rules 5(a), 54(c), and 55(b)(2) that responded to the Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Hermanson v. Szafarowicz, 457 Mass. 39 (2010). The Hermanson case dealt with the conflict between G.L. c. 231, § 13B, which limits a plaintiff's ability to demand a specific monetary amount in a complaint, and Rule 54(c), which provides that a default judgment may not exceed the amount requested in the demand for judgment.

Detailed analysis of the amendments to these three rules is set forth in the Reporter's Notes to the 2013 amendments to Rule 55(b)(2).

(1996): With the merger of the District Court rules into the Mass. R. Civ. P., minor differences which had existed between Mass. R. Civ. P. 54 and Dist./Mun. Cts. R. Civ. P. 54 have been eliminated. These differences were based on the lack of civil jury trials in the District Court. Although there are still no civil jury trials in the District Court (with some exceptions), the differences are not significant enough to merit any changes in the merged set of civil rules.

(1986): Under Rule 54(f), the initial entry of judgment by the trial court should be the sum of the verdict and interest on that verdict to the time of said entry. Post-judgment interest should be computed on that total. See, e.g., Boston Edison v. Tritsch, 370 Mass. 260, 266 (1976); Charles D. Bonanno Linen Service, Inc. v. McCarthy, 550 F.Supp. 231, 248 (D.Mass.1982).

(1973): Rule 54(a) crystallizes the meaning of "judgment" (and "final judgment"), and emphasizes the difference between these terms and the concept of "judgment" under pre-existing Massachusetts practice. Heretofore, "judgment" has meant the last step in the case, which cuts off all appellate review (unless the losing party can successfully press a petition to vacate the judgment). Under the Rules, "judgment" is merely the final adjudicating act of the trial court, and starts the timetable for appellate review. Briefly stated, a case which "went to judgment" under the old practice was, except in the rarest circumstances, forensically dead; henceforth, a case in which judgment is "entered" is ready for appeal. See Rule 58 and Appellate Rules 3 and 4. For a definition of "appeal" see Appellate Rule 1.

Because the Rules merge "law" and "equity," see Rule 2, the word "judgment" also incorporates what used to be Called a "decree".

Practice under Federal Rule 54(b) (identical to Rule 54(b) ) is to wait until all claims are ripe for judgment before entering judgment on any of them. However, the court may "direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties," although "only upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay." This exception is necessary to avoid the injustice that may result from reserving judgment until final adjudication of all of several remotely-related claims.

Rule 54(c) requires that a judgment by default extend only to what is prayed for in the demand for judgment; otherwise, a judgment should grant the relief to which the prevailing party is entitled.

Rule 54(c) also provides that every final judgment (except a default judgment) shall grant the relief to which the party is entitled, regardless of whether he requested it or not. Thus a party may be granted equitable relief when he asked for damages, or damages when he requested equitable relief. A party may be awarded greater damages than the ad damnum.

Rule 54(d) accords with G.L. c. 261, § 1: "In civil actions the prevailing party shall recover his costs, except as otherwise provided." Costs fixed by statute are of course taxed in accordance therewith. Costs in actions whose costs are not thus regulated may not be taxed more broadly than in regulated actions. See G.L. c. 261, § 13. In the latter event, however, both rules and statute vest the court with discretion as to whether costs shall be taxed at all.

Massachusetts practice with respect to taxation of costs can be found in G.L. c. 261, § 19. The clerk may tax the costs without notifying any party, unless the adverse party has given "seasonable notice in writing to the clerk of his desire to be present at the taxation or causes such notice to be entered on the docket." This procedure will continue under Rule 54(d).

Rule 54(e) deals with the taxation of costs incident to depositions. These costs are entirely subject to the court's discretion. But costs may never be allowed unless the court finds the taking of the deposition to have been reasonably necessary. Items includible as "taxable costs" are also listed in Rule 54(e). Rule 54(e) is for all practical purposes identical to S.J.C. Rule 3:15, Section 9. The only difference is that Rule 54(e) permits taxation of witnesses' fees and mileage allowances.