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Taking your business litigation to appellate court

After weeks or months of fighting for your cause in a business litigation, you were disappointed that the court's ruling did not go your way. Perhaps the decision is a devastating financial blow to your business, or it places the future of your company and its intellectual property in jeopardy. Whatever the details, you are wondering what your next step will be.

Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to appeal the verdict. However, it is important to understand the purpose of an appeal in California and the process you must go through for an appellate court to hear your case.

The difference between a trial and an appeal

First of all, not everyone can win a lawsuit. Just because you did not receive a favorable decision does not mean you have grounds for appeal. Contrary to what many people believe, an appeal is not another trial where you re-present your evidence or even new evidence you have discovered.

Instead, an appeal focuses on the rule of law. An appellate court accepts that the evidence revealed in court is factual, and instead the court examines whether the trial court made mistakes, such as making incorrect rulings on motions, allowing evidence that the judge should have suppressed or rendering an unreasonable verdict.

How to appeal

Ideally, your attorney prepares to appeal your case from the earliest days of the trial by noting questionable actions in the courtroom and objecting when appropriate. When the trial ends, your attorney prepares a brief, which is a summary of the errors the court made in applying the law to your case. Your opponent will respond with reasons why he or she feels the ruling was appropriate.

A panel of judges, typically three, will review the briefs and perhaps summon the attorneys to clarify details and defend their sides. The judges will review anything that is officially on the record, including transcripts, evidence and motions before rendering its decision.

What next?

If the court rules in your favor, you may expect the other party to appeal to the next highest court, but the chances of obtaining a hearing for an appeal are less likely the higher you go in the court system. State supreme courts generally do not have the time to hear every case that has already gone through the appellate level.

Taking a case to the court of appeals is complicated and involves specific rules of law. An attorney with experience and success at this level of business litigation can be an advantage to you by providing an honest assessment of your case and guiding you through the most appropriate options.

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