What Does a “Win” on Appeal Really Mean?

There are many different types of relief that people seek in court, from money damages, a restraining order or an injunction, to an order compelling someone to take a particular action, or a declaration of their rights.

These types of cases can be won or lost at many stages of a lawsuit. Some cases are dismissed quickly because there is no relief available under the facts set forth in the complaint. Other cases are dismissed before trial because the parties agree on all of the important facts, and there is no reason for a jury or judge to determine what actually happened. In those cases, the trial judge can apply the law to the agreed upon facts and make a decision. A few cases go to trial so that the jury or judge can establish the facts, and then render a verdict or decision based on the applicable law.

If you lose your case in the trial court and file an appeal, the type of success you might achieve on appeal will depend on the type of relief you are seeking and on how you lost in the trial court. For example, if your lawsuit was thrown out on the law early on, your “win” on appeal would be the reinstatement of your case. You would still have to go back to the trial court and prove your case before you are entitled to money damages or other relief.

If the Court of Appeal concluded that the parties really did not agree on the important facts, and a jury or judge needs to establish certain facts, a “win” on appeal would be that your case goes to trial. You would still need to prove your case at trial to win the relief you seek.

If your case already went to trial and you lost, a “win” on appeal might mean you get a new trial. Or it might mean you are entitled to damages in an amount to be proven to the trial court, or the Court of Appeal could set the amount of damages, although this is highly unlikely. If you are seeking injunctive relief or an order compelling someone to take an action, a “win” on appeal could be a new trial, a new proceeding before an administrative body if the case arose that way, or it could be an order for the trial court awarding the relief you are seeking.

There are many different ways to “win” an appeal. Many do not involve winning the entire case; they instead involve second chances in the trial court. It is important to know all of the possible ways you could “win” in the Court of Appeal before you decide whether to proceed forward. A “win” does not always mean the case is over; there may be many more miles to go, and sometimes at great additional expense.