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Can every civil case be appealed?

Though civil appeals are often discussed in the Las Vegas news, their use is actually only allowed under certain circumstances. According to the American Bar Association, civil appeals do not usually arise as a result of new evidence and/or witnesses. Rather, appeals courts deal with legal errors that may have tainted the decision of a lower court.

The ABA explains that parties on either side of a civil case have the ability to appeal. Allowable bases for appeals will generally rest on claims of legal errors that resulted from a judge’s misinterpretation of the law or that arose during a trial’s procedure. Examples of these types of errors are the improper admittance of evidence and erroneous jury instructions.  

If an appellate court finds that the errors presented by the appellant (the party bringing the appeal) are substantial enough, it may take action. When making their decisions, appellate courts will review whether the errors of law are harmless or harmful.

Harmless errors, as their name suggests, are those that did not substantially affect the verdict of the lower courts. If a court finds the presented legal errors to be harmless, the verdict of the lower court will be upheld.

When an appellate court deems an error to be harmful, it will usually reverse and remand the case. This means that the case is sent back down to a lower court, with instructions from the appellate court. These instructions can include orders to hold a new trial, modify a judgment or reconsider the facts.

Should appellants’ claims fail, they may still be able to take their cases to a higher court, such as the highest of the state or the U.S. Supreme Court.

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