Depending on whether you are appealing a pre-trial or post-trial judgment, there are a few different ways to approach the reversal of defense judgment.
When we review a defense judgment, we start by talking to you. We want to hear from you about what went wrong and what went right in your case from your perspective. This is our starting point in identifying the most fertile grounds for appeal.
Before proceeding to appeal, we consider whether it would be beneficial to file a new trial motion. A new trial motion is an essential tool that allows parties to ensure the record is complete before going up on appeal.
A new trial motion can be especially useful if there is newly discovered evidence, rulings or proposed instructions that were not put on the record during the trial, or critical evidence or testimony that was erroneously excluded.
When appealing from a summary judgment, we examine the court’s evidentiary rulings to see if they erroneously excluded plaintiff’s evidence or erroneously admitted defense evidence.
When appealing from a defense jury verdict, admissibility of evidence is also a factor to be evaluated. In some cases, the court might erroneously allow the jury to consider evidence that they shouldn’t consider. In other cases, they might erroneously exclude evidence that was an important part of plaintiff’s case.
In addition to showing that the court should have allowed the evidence, we must show that the error was prejudicial.
When appealing from a defense jury verdict, one of the most fertile grounds for reversal is an instructional error because of the favorable de novo standard of review. In some cases, the court might have erroneously issued an instruction that confused the jury, misstated the law, or effectively commented on the evidence. In other cases, the court might have erroneously refused an instruction proposed by the plaintiff that should have been given.
In addition to showing that the instructional ruling was erroneous, we must show that the error was prejudicial.
In addition to identifying points of legal error, we look for other irregularities in the trial or signs of bias. If the judge makes off-hand remarks or tries to steer the jury in a certain way, the verdict might be invalid because of bias. In some cases, certain trial proceedings should happen outside of the presence of the jury. If they don’t, these proceedings can influence the jury to make an incorrect decision.
Jurors can show bias, too. Perhaps the court should have struck someone from the jury panel that showed signs that they couldn’t be fair. Perhaps a juror accessed outside evidence that influenced their decision. If anything happened that prevented the jury from making an unbiased decision based only on admissible evidence, it may be a valid ground for reversal.
The art of the appeal is bringing to life the plaintiff’s story that the jury heard but the court of appeal did not. This is done by painstakingly collecting and displaying the evidence so that the Court of Appeal is getting the story directly from the evidence, not the advocate.
The science of the appeal is marshaling the law and facts through the lens of the appropriate standard of review.
Also, because we specialize in appeals, we may identify grounds for appeal that you aren’t aware of. And, because we know the rules, we make sure all the filing deadlines and requirements are met.
If you need help reversing defense jury verdicts, please contact us. The Law Office of Valerie T. McGinty specializes in representing plaintiffs on appeal.