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Last Modified: October 18, 2022


The U.S. Court website defines uphold as when the appeals court “agrees with the lower court decision and allows it to stand.” More broadly it means “to support or defend.” Often the courts will use affirmed instead of uphold, though they mean the same thing.

Example Sentence

gavel resting in place

The appeals judge upheld the decision made by the jury.

Case Study

While driving with a friend, Ms. Lopez got injured by another car rear-ending theirs. The other driver did not have enough insurance to cover all of the medical costs Ms. Lopez had to pay. Her friend did not have an underinsured policy. This meant her friend’s insurance company would not pay for the extra bills she had. Utah requires both uninsured and underinsured coverage unless you specifically agree to not have it. Ms. Lopez’s friend had agreed to not include it in her policy. However, Ms. Lopez argued in court that her friend did not understand what she was giving up. She argued that the insurance company did not clearly explain what her friend was doing. The lowest court dismissed her claims. So, she appealed that decision to the appeals court. It did not uphold the lower court decision. It instead found the insurance company had poorly explained what it meant to give up the underinsured coverage. The court also awarded her the highest amount of money that an underinsured policy would have given her. The insurance company appealed this decision to the Utah Supreme Court which upheld the appeals court’s first decision. It agreed that the insurance company failed to properly explain what it meant to give up underinsured coverage. However, the court did not uphold the appeals court’s second decision to award Ms. Lopez money. It instead ordered the lowest court to decide the amount of money that the insurance company should award Ms. Lopez.

Important Information

Uphold can refer to more than a higher court supporting a lower court’s decision. Members of the judicial branch are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the U.S. and the state of Utah. If an appeals court upholds or decides not to uphold a lower court’s decision, then it will usually do the same with a similar case that comes before it. Cases that have been upheld in a higher court usually become a precedent.

Photo courtesy of Mdesigns and Pixabay. The image is free for commercial use.