Can the outcome of a civil case be appealed?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A civil case is a noncriminal lawsuit usually involving private property rights. A civil lawsuit may involve any one of hundreds of circumstances, including breach of contract, probate, divorce, negligence, or copyright violations. A typical civil case will usually involve one “party” suing another for money or other property. The term “party” can include individuals, businesses, and government agencies. A civil case or civil lawsuit may also be filed to force a party to cease a course of conduct or refrain from committing a certain act such as picketing or disclosing confidential information.

Will the outcome of a civil case usually be final?

If the parties involved in a civil case do not agree in advance that the decision of the court will be final, the outcome of the civil case may be appealed. An appeal is a written petition to a higher court to modify or reverse a decision of a lower court. The appeal process begins when the loser at a trial (the appellant) files a notice of appeal. The notice of appeal must be filed within strict time limits, usually 30 days from the date of judgment. The appellant and the winner of the trial (the appellee) must submit written arguments and often make oral arguments explaining why the lower court’s decision should be upheld or overturned.

What are the most common reasons to appeal a civil case or civil lawsuit?

Legal errors represent the most common reason to appeal a court’s decision on a civil case or civil lawsuit. If a party’s constitutional rights were violated while evidence was being obtained, that evidence is considered inadmissible and should not be used during the trial. Allowing inadmissible evidence in a civil case is a legal error and grounds for appeal. Other legal errors made during a civil case may include a lack of convincing evidence in support of a guilty verdict or mistakes made by the judge while instructing the jury. 

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