Marek v. Chesny

473 U.S. 1 (1985)


Marek, (Ds) three police officer, answered a domestic disturbance call and killed respondent's son. Chesny (P) filed suit against the officers under 1983 and state tort law. Ds made a timely offer for settlement prior to the trial of $100,000. P did not accept the offer and P was awarded $5,000 on the wrongful death claim, and $52,000 for the 1983 violation, and $3,000 in punitive damages. P filed a request for $171,692.17 in costs including attorney fees. Ds opposed the claim for post-offer costs based on Rule 68. Rule 68 shifts all the costs incurred subsequent to an offer of judgment not exceeded by the ultimate recovery at trial. Ds argue that attorney fees are part of the costs covered by Rule 68. The District Court agreed. P appealed from the denial of post-offer costs. The Court of Appeals reversed. That court rejected what it termed the mechanical linking of Rule 68 to section 1988. It stated that the District Court’s reading while logical would put civil rights plaintiffs in a predicament that cuts against the grain of section 1988. The appeals court reasoned that Congress would not have wanted the effectiveness of 1988 blunted because of a little-known rule of court. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.