Talc Defendant Entitled to Costs after Favorable Verdict

CALIFORNIA — In 2016, a Los Angeles jury ruled in favor of defendant Colgate-Palmolive Company (Colgate), and against Plaintiff Elizabeth Alfaro, who alleged that her mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos from talcum powder products. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Colgate on the exposure claims; this verdict was affirmed on appeal. Colgate then appealed the trial court’s denial of its request for $300,000 in costs and expert witness fees. This request was made pursuant to the California statutory law scheme which allowed prevailing parties to recover some costs (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1032. This scheme also allowed for recovery of expert fees upon a party’s rejection of an offer to compromise (CCCP Section 998). Colgate argued that the trial court improperly considered evidence of the plaintiff’s finances in denying the request, and abused its discretion by not considering whether its statutory offer to compromise was made in good faith.

The court concluded that California’s prevailing party statute and interpreting authority did not require assessing the financial circumstances of the losing party. The court deemed that Colgate was entitled to its allowable statutory costs as a prevailing party. It remanded the matter to the trial court to consider Plaintiff’s challenges to specific costs, and the reasonableness of others. The court further ordered the trial court to determine whether Colgate’s offer to compromise was made in good faith and the amount of any reasonably necessary expert witness fees that may be allowed under the statute.

Read the full case decision here.