California appellate court states trial court abused discretion in denying Colgate costs in mesothelioma suit

By Randy Tucker | Aug 23, 2018

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – The California 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division Four ruled Aug. 8 that the Los Angeles County Superior Court abused its discretion in denying Colgate-Palmolive Co. costs it requested and erred in failing to determine whether the company made an offer in good faith.

"Colgate contends the trial court lacked the authority to exercise its discretion in this manner and, further, that (Elizabeth) Alfaro failed to present sufficient evidence of an inability to pay. We agree that the trial court abused its discretion in denying all costs requested by Colgate and therefore reverse," the court ruled.

In the original case, the late Elizabeth Alfaro alleged that she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015 at the age of 38 from exposure to asbestos contained in talcum powder products. Colgate-Palmolive was one of two defendants out of an original dozen in the suit. Alfaro died while the appeal was pending and her mother, Delgadina Alfaro, became successor-in-interest in the action.

The trial court ruled for Colgate-Palmolive and Imerys Talc America in 2016 and that judgment was previously affirmed on appeal.

Colgate filed a memorandum of costs in August 2016 and argued it was entitled to more than $300,000 in court costs as the prevailing party.

The trial court ruled against Colgate-Palmolive finding that Alfaro could not pay the expense and it would be unjust to impose such a substantial amount on her.

In a supplemental brief, Alfaro argued that she did not have the means to pay the more than $300,000 in court costs and had incurred $320,000 in medical expenses, was unemployed and in seriously poor health.

In December 2016, the court denied all cost requests by Colgate.

The trial court stated that Alfaro was a very ill woman, stuck in the middle of a controversial debate concerning cause and effect from events that "occurred decades ago." If the court awarded expenses to Colgate, it would effect “an inhumane and indecent result” on Alfaro, according to the ruling.

In the appeal, the Appellate Court ruled in favor of Colgate and remanded the case back to the original court.

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