(CN) – Japanese baseball player Kouichi Taniguchi does not have to cover the cost of translation services that a resort needed to fight his unsuccessful personal injury action, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Taniguchi, a pitcher formerly of the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, sued Kan Pacific Saipan’s Marianas Resort and Spa after he fell through a deck while touring the resort.
Taniguchi initially claimed not to be hurt, but two weeks later said that he’d suffered various injuries from the fall.
A federal judge granted summary judgment to the resort and said Taniguchi was responsible for the documents that Ken Pacific had translated from Japanese to English.
Taniguchi appealed the award, but the 9th Circuit affirmed from Honolulu in March 2011.
A divided Supreme Court vacated that decision Monday, finding that the statute that compensates prevailing litigants for “interpreters” is limited to the cost of oral translation, and does not include the cost of document translation.
“Based on our survey of the relevant dictionaries, we conclude that the ordinary or common meaning of ‘interpreter’ does not include those who translate writings,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “Instead, we find that an interpreter is normally understood as one who translates orally from one language to another. This sense of the word is far more natural. As the Seventh Circuit put it: ‘Robert Fagles made famous translations into English of the ‘Iliad,’ the ‘Odyssey,’ and the ‘Aeneid,’ but no one would refer to him as an English language ‘interpreter’ of these works.”
“To be sure, the word ‘interpreter’ can encompass persons who translate documents, but because that is not the ordinary meaning of the word, it does not control unless the context in which the word appears indicates that it does. Nothing in the Court Interpreters Act or in §1920, however, even hints that Congress intended to go beyond the ordinary meaning of ‘interpreter’ and to embrace the broadest possible meaning that the definition of the word can bear.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg authored the dissent, which states that the practice of awarding costs for document-translation services has spanned several decades.
“In short, §1920(6)’s prescription on ‘interpreters’ is not so clear as to leave no room for interpretation,” Ginsburg wrote. “Given the purpose served by translation and the practice prevailing in district courts, there is no good reason to exclude from taxable costs payments for placing written words within the grasp of parties, jurors, and judges.”
Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined the dissent.