Question: I was a defendant in a debt collection lawsuit, which was dismissed. Can I recover the court costs that I paid in order to answer the summons?
My response: Yes, you certainly may seek those costs. Here are the steps and applicable time limits:
1. Complete the Memorandum of Costs (Summary), Form MC-010. Here is the link to the form online, free from the Judicial Council: Form MC-010 Link
Be sure to put the correct amount you paid the clerk of the court in Box 1 and the total at the bottom. You probably don’t have any other costs, so the total will typically match box 1.
2. Serve a copy by mail on the plaintiff’s law firm and file the original completed form MC-010 with the clerk of the court, making sure you have an extra that they can conform and return to you. There is no filing fee for this.
There are strict deadlines to file the memorandum of costs and the deadlines are different, depending on the Superior Court case (Unlimited Civil cases are $25,000 or more, Limited Civil cases are under that amount). If you file it within 10 days of dismissal, it will be timely. If the clerk or the Plaintiff or their lawyer serve you with notice of the dismissal, then the defendant has 15 days from date of service to file the memorandum of costs in Unlimited Civil and 30 days in Limited Civil. If no notice is served, then the defendant has 180 days from the date of entry of dismissal in Unlimited Civil and 90 days in Limited Civil to file the memorandum of costs.
A late memorandum will result in a waiver, unless the court grants relief for excusable delay, under Section 473, Subdivision (b) of the Code of Civil Procedure.
3. If the plaintiff does not file a motion to tax costs (which the defendant may oppose and the court will then rule on any costs that are being challenged) and the plaintiff does not pay the costs, then you should lodge with the court a judgment for the costs amount, which can then be enforced as with any judgment for money. The Judicial Council also has a form judgment, JUD-100, but it is not easy to use for this purpose, and would be easier to prepare a non-standardized form on pleading paper with the words “Judgment for Defendant” on it and the costs amount and a place for the judge or commissioner to sign for the Superior Court.