trialsTrial De Novo

“A new trial or retrial had in an appellate court in which the whole case is gone into as if no trial whatever had been had in the court below” (Black’s Law Dictionary). “A trial held on appeal, in which the appeals court holds a trial as if no prior trial had been held, considering the evidence anew rather than reviewing the lower court’s decision for correctness” (Nolo’s Law Dictionary).

Example Sentence

Because he felt the decision in small claims court was biased, Jim had his lawyer request a trial de novo to seek a fairer judgment.

Case Study

James’ doctor had accidentally killed his wife by prescribing the wrong drug. James entered arbitration, seeking damages against the doctor. However, the ruling felt extremely unfair, so he sought for a trial de novo with a jury to better petition his case. His lawyer filed an appeal within 20 days of the ruling and sent a copy of the complaint to the doctor’s lawyer, but James discovered that he could not seek any punitive damages against the doctor to dissuade him from being so careless again. He did win a higher settlement, though, allowing him to recover from the loss of his wife.

Other Important Information

Most trial de novo cases are “on appeals from small claims court judgments” (Nolo’s Law Dictionary). When an appeals court hears a trial de novo it may refer to “the trial court’s record to determine the facts,” but not to the finding (Cornell Law School). Trial courts can hold a trial de novo as an appeal from an arbitration decision (Cornell Law School). The decision of a trial de novo cannot be appealed unless it is challenging the constitutionality of a law (Utah Code). Utah places several limitations on trial de novo cases arising from arbitration. Punitive damages cannot be sought in a trial de novo from an arbitration (Utah Code). Arbitration decisions are final unless one party requests a trial de novo within 20 days of the decision and provides a copy of the complaint to the other party (Utah Code). If appealed, several conditions apply:

  1. If the plaintiff requests trial de novo, then he or she must receive a verdict minimum of  $5,000 as well as one that is 30% greater (20% for underinsured cases) than the arbitration ruling or else pay for the costs of the defendant;
  2. If the defendant appeals for trial de novo, then he or she must get a ruling of at least 30% less (20% for underinsured cases) than the arbitration’s or pay the plaintiff’s costs;
  3. Neither costs can exceed $6,000 ($2,500 for underinsured cases);
  4. If a party appeals in bad faith, meaning with insincere or dishonest purposes, then the court may award reasonable attorney fees to the other party;
  5. When a plaintiff appeals, the total award cannot surpass $50,000;
  6. When a defendant appeals, that amount comes down to $15,000 above the insurance coverage limits;
  7. Never can the total verdict exceed $65,000 (Utah Code).

The court determines costs awarded as:

  1. Anything set for in Rule 54(d) of Utah’s Rules of Civil Procedure;
  2. Costs of depositions and expert witnesses (Utah Code).

Two legal fees apply to trial de novo cases:

  1. $225 for “trial de novo of an adjudication of the justice court or of the small claims department” (Utah Code);
  2. $10 for a notice of appeal from a small claims court case on top of the original cost (Utah Code).

Image “D.C. Court of Appeals copyright by AgnosticPreachersKid.

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