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Understanding the Appeals Process in Personal Injury Cases: Part II

June 07 2019 | Blog
  • The second installment of our article on the appeals process in Kentucky and Tennessee covers in greater detail how an appeal differs from the initial trial and what stages a typical appellate procedure follows.

    As we explained in the previous installment of this article, an appeal is much different than the initial trial in which both parties appear before the court to present their claims, refute the arguments of the other side, and interview witnesses. Still, the appellate process follows a well-established legal procedure which we will describe in more detail in this installment of the article.

    Typical Appellate Procedure

    While the appellate procedure varies slightly from state to state, the most important elements of it usually include the notice of appeal, written briefs, the oral argument, and the decision of the court. Below you will find a short explanation of each these stages with details pertaining to the appellate procedure in the appellate courts of Kentucky and Tennessee.

    Notice of Appeal

    The appeals process begins with one of the parties filing a notice of appeal. This is a simple document whose purpose is to notify other parties and the Court of Appeals about the intention to appeal the initial judgment. Both in Kentucky and in Tennessee, the notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the judgment. The notice must clearly identify the parties as well as the initial judgment that the appellant wishes to appeal. Along with the notice, the appealing party will also be required to pay appropriate filing fees.

    Written Briefs

    The most important part of the appeals process is the preparation of a written brief. The brief presents the appealing party’s argument, that is, the reasons why the party feels the appeal is substantiated along with the facts of the case and the violations that were committed during the initial trial. Since only a handful of appeals are heard by a judge personally in a procedure called the oral argument, the written brief can often determine whether the appeal will prevail or not.

    The appellee – or the party against which the appeal is filed – may respond with their own written brief in which they address the issues raised by the appellant, defending the initial judgment in the case. The appellant then has an opportunity to refute that response by the means of a reply brief.

    Oral Argument

    The parties appear before the court again only if they are selected for the oral argument. During the oral argument, no witnesses are heard and no new evidence is presented. Rather, each party is awarded a short period of time – no more than 30 minutes in both Kentucky and Tennessee – to offer further explanations to the judge.

    Decision of the Court

    The Court of Appeals will pronounce its decision with regards to the appeal on the basis of the briefs and the oral argument if a given appeal is selected for it. There are different outcomes that the decision of the appeals court may engender:

    • the initial judgment may be affirmed (meaning that the appeal was unsuccessful)
    • the initial judgment may be reversed (meaning that the appeals court granted the appeal)
    • the initial judgment may be affirmed in some of its aspects while reversed in others
    • the case may be remanded to the lower court for further proceedings

    Further Appeals

    If the appeals court decides to affirm the initial judgment, the case can still be appealed to courts of higher instances. In Kentucky, if an appeal doesn’t prevail in the Kentucky Court of Appeals, it can be further appealed in the Kentucky Supreme Court. Similarly, an appeal of a judgment pronounced by the Tennessee Court of Appeals can be made to the Tennessee Supreme Court. In rare cases, a person may be able to seek a further appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court which is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States.

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