Indiana has very open accesses to its court to settle disputes in civil cases. When a party does not prevail, there is the constitutional right to appeal to a higher court. Generally, this is to the Indiana Court of Appeals, who decides about 4,000 appeals per year. There are four common misconceptions about an appeal that are the discussed in this blog to allow you to be a more informed legal consumer.
The first general understanding is that a mistake in admission of evidence or exclusion of evidence is a basis on which the Court of Appeals may reverse the trial court’s decision. Because every trial is unique and dynamic, each and every one has mistakes made in the process. Most are “harmless” meaning they would not change the outcome of the trial. Thus, “harmless error” does not stop the right to appeal but is not generally a basis the higher court will use to reverse.
Secondly, many cases come down to weighing he-said, she-said. The Court of Appeals does not use this as a basis for reversal because it has a “cold” record, what occurred reduced to paper (a typed statement of the evidence and exhibits). A great deal of what a trial court uses is its observations of the litigants as they testify. Only where no reasonable fact-finder (judge) could have reached the decision rendered will an appellate court reverse.
A third and very common misunderstanding is an appeal is a tool to submit evidence that was omitted at trial for a variety of reasons. This is not the case and the Court of Appeals uses the same evidence (testimony and exhibits) from trial. But it does not have the non-verbal context the trial court observed. In certain cases, there is a way to submit evidence after a trial under narrow trial rules.
There are many strong reasons for an appeal. Hopefully, this blog helps you focus on other viable issues, such as the ruling was unconstitutional or the trial court misapplied the law, which although rare is not uncommon given the tens of thousands of laws on the books.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle appeals in the Indiana Court of Appeals, administrative appeals, and to higher courts. This blog post is not intended to be a solicitation for specific legal services or legal advice.