What do you do after losing at trial?

By: J. Mason Williams IV

I lost my civil case, now what?  You decided to give it a go pro se, i.e. by yourself, but it didn’t work and now you have a final judgment against you.  So what do you do?  Well, under typical circumstances there are several possibilities in Florida.

First, get in touch with an attorney immediately.  All hope isn’t lost yet, but the road is only going to get tougher from this point on.  The best thing to do is get a professional who knows exactly what to do for your particular circumstances.  Time is of the essence.  Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.530 allows a party to file a motion for a new trial within 10 days after the verdict in a jury trial or after the date of filing of the judgment in a non-jury trial.

If that doesn’t work, it’s likely time to start thinking about an appeal.  Hopefully you reserved the right to appeal for all the issues you are re-contesting.  One of the major reasons you want a lawyer on your side during trial is to preserve your right to appeal.  Remember, you can’t bring in any new evidence after you lose.  If you intentionally or even accidentally waived your right to an appeal, good luck getting it back.

For an appeal, Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.110 lays a lot of the framework.  Two notices (1 original and 1 copy) must be filed, with fees of course, in the lower court (where the trial occurred) within 30 days of the order to be reviewed.  After that, you follow the rules regarding providing the appellate court with an appellate brief, a record (which will soon be required to be transmitted electronically to the court, See 2012 FLORIDA COURT ORDER 0035), etc.

It seems simple enough, but mistakes can be costly.  Additional attorney’s fees may be available to the other party if they win on appeal, for instance.

Long story short – hire an attorney upfront.  Just like in poker, if you aren’t willing to lose it, don’t risk it.

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