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If a case spoils, what do you do? Ask the attorney

Q: Our lawyer did a great job at trial but we lost. The judge made what we think were incorrect decisions along the way. Now the other side desires “all costs.” How do you handle this example? We are right but lost.

– A.H., Santa Ana

A: Nobody wins all the time. Trials are typically described as “crapshoots,” suggesting you can not scientifically forecast the outcome. In sports, the expression we hear is that on any given day, one team could win, even if the scorecard shows the other team is far stronger. As such, if the outcome is bad and unanticipated, you have to discover a way to roll with it, to look for to stay intentional, and to take the next prudent steps. Not surprisingly, most cases settle in large part due to the fact that the threats of trial are so substantial. Finally, appeals courts exist for a reason. In sum, losing is extremely tough, and can be devastating, but strength and a purposeful method are a must.

The Appeal Process

Online, the California courts have a helpful link about the essentials of an appeal in a civil case. Go to courts.ca.gov, or type “California, Appeal Process, Self Help” in your web browser.

Q: On what basis can we appeal the adverse judgment in our civil case?

– L.K., Los Angeles

A: In most cases, the appellate court focuses on two concerns: Whether a legal mistake was made in the trial court, and whether the error altered the decision in the event. Appeals are not a retrial. While the high court can resolve and figure out both legal and accurate disputes, the appellate courts are to think about legal concerns. They are not to reweigh the evidence or reassess the credibility of the witnesses. With really minimal exceptions, appellate courts typically decline arguments that a judge or jury reached the wrong factual conclusion.

Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with more than 35 years of experience. His column, which appears in print on Wednesdays, provides a summary of the law and must not be interpreted as legal guidance. Email concerns and comments to him at

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