WANDA COLLINS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of WILLIAM "MACK" VAUGHAN, Plaintiff-Appellee,
ST. VINCENT HOSPITAL, INC., Defendant-Appellant.
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FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF SANTA FE COUNTY Sarah M.
Singleton, District Judge
Stephen Durkovich Albuquerque, NM Hunt & Marshall Lee R.
Hunt Santa Fe, NM Cohen and Zedalis, LLC Seth T. Cohen Santa
Fe, NM for Appellee
Modrall, Sperling, Roehl, Harris & Sisk, P.A. Emil J.
Kiehne Elizabeth A. Martinez Albuquerque, NM for Appellant
JONATHAN B. SUTIN, Judge.
The district court denied Defendant St. Vincent
Hospital's motion to award costs after the jury returned
a verdict favoring the Hospital in this wrongful death and
medical negligence action. The Hospital appeals the district
court's denial of its motion. We hold that the district
court did not err in denying the motion.
The facts of the medical negligence case are to be found in
Collins v. St. Vincent Hospital, Inc., No.
A-1-CA-35247, filed simultaneously with this opinion.
Plaintiff is the personal representative of the estate of
William "Mack" Vaughan. The jury in
Collins determined that the Hospital was negligent
but that the Hospital's negligence did not cause
Vaughan's injuries and damages.
Following the district court's judgment on the verdict in
favor of the Hospital, the Hospital filed a motion pursuant
Rule 1-054 NMRA seeking costs of $41, 610.07. Collins opposed
the motion. The district court denied the motion on the
ground that evidence at trial showed that nothing existed in
the estate to satisfy a cost award.
The Hospital's appellate points are that (1) Plaintiff,
as personal representative, may be held personally liable for
costs under Rule 1-054; (2) the district court abused its
discretion by refusing to award costs against Vaughan's
probate estate, based on an erroneous determination that the
estate was unable to pay; and (3) the district court abused
its discretion by denying the Hospital's request for
limited discovery into the financial assets of the estate.
We review the denial of a motion for costs for abuse of
discretion. Mascarenas v. Jaramillo, 1991-NMSC-014,
¶ 24, 111 N.M. 410, 806 P.2d 59. "An abuse of
discretion will be found when the trial court's decision
is clearly untenable or contrary to logic and reason."
Rivera v. Brazos Lodge Corp., 1991-NMSC-030, ¶
16, 111 N.M. 670, 808 P.2d 955. "The trial court has
discretion in assessing costs, and its ruling will not be
disturbed on appeal unless it was an abuse of
discretion." Pioneer Sav. & Tr., F.A. v.
Rue, 1989-NMSC-079, ¶ 12, 109 N.M. 228, 784 P.2d
Some evidence existed at trial indicating that Vaughan's
estate lacked resources to pay a cost award. Collins
testified at trial that after Vaughan's death, she closed
out his affairs, dealt with his home/studio, mailed his rocks
and kitchen tools to her home, and provided Vaughan's
"little car" and some art to Vaughan's son.
Lack of financial assets is recognized as a proper
consideration in whether to award costs. See Key v.
Chrysler Motors Corp., 2000-NMSC-010, ¶ 13, 128
N.M. 739, 998 P.2d 575; Gallegos ex rel. Gallegos v. Sw.
Cmty. Health Servs., 1994-NMCA-037, ¶¶ 30-31,
117 N.M. 481, 872 P.2d 899 (holding that the district court
properly considered the plaintiff's and her parents'
ability to pay as one factor in determining whether to award
the defendants' costs). The district court determined
that evidence showed that the estate would have no money to
pay the cost bill.
The district court's determination in reliance on the
evidence at trial was not clearly untenable or against logic
and reason. And we are not persuaded that the court was
required to permit, or otherwise abused its discretion in not
permitting, the Hospital to engage in discovery of the