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Process to Appeal from a Summary Judgment in Mississippi 

In Mississippi, many cases that don’t settle before trial are decided by our trial judges.  That is, quite often, the judge may decided to dismiss the case without holding a trial.  The trial court may have granted “summary judgment,” which serves as a dismissal of the case.  If your case was to be tried by a jury, then a summary judgment removes the case from the jury’s consideration.  

What is the legal standard for granting summary judgment? 

Under Rule 56 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is properly granted if there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact.”  Under this standard, the evidence must be viewed most favorably to the party opposing the summary-judgment motion.  As our Supreme Court has said many times:  “Issues of fact sufficient to require denial of a motion for summary judgment obviously are present where one party swears to one version of the matter in issue and another says the opposite.”  So, essentially, all that is required to defeat a motion for summary judgment is competing evidence (on each of your elements of proof).     If the judge granted summary judgment, she may have gotten it wrong.  Because the legal standard favors the party opposing summary judgment, quite often trial judges err by granting summary judgment.  If the judge did err, then you may can have the error corrected through an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court or the Mississippi Court of Appeals.  

Can you appeal a jury verdict in a civil case?  

The answer is yes.  But understand, this is different than summary judgment.  An appeal from a jury verdict has gone through the entire trial process.  On the other hand, a summary judgment means that the case is dismissed before a jury even considers the case.  

What types of Mississippi cases involve summary judgment? 

There are many.  Many of the cases are ones that—barring summary judgment—are generally tried by jury.  Examples of jury matters that can be appealed include a slip-and-fall appeal, personal-injury appeal, medical-malpractice appeal, commercial-litigation appeal, and will-contest appeal.  But courts can grant summary judgment in ANY type of civil case.  Examples of non-jury matters that can be appealed include termination-of-parental rights appeals, divorce appeals, and child-custody appeals.  

Grounds for appeal in civil cases?  

This post mainly relates to summary judgments, but there are numerous potential grounds to appeal a civil case.  If the case is a summary judgment, generally the issue on appeal is if a genuine factual dispute existed.  If so, then the judge should NOT have granted summary judgment.  If you are challenging the summary judgment, you would be contending the trial judge erred by denying you a trial, and if applicable, by denying you a trial by jury.   But if your case does not involve summary judgment, the potential errors are many.  For example, the judge may have erred by admitting or excluding certain evidence, or by making a decision that was contrary to the overwhelming evidence.  If you are pondering an appeal, you should consult a qualified attorney who focuses on appeals to discuss whether you have an issue worth appealing. 

How much does it cost to appeal a civil case?  

Our firm is unique in that we offer flat-fee pricing for most appeals.  That means you will know up front exactly what it will cost to appeal.  The reason we are able to do this is because we focus on appeals as one of our main practice areas, so we know with precision what the time commitment will be to give your case the attention it deserves.  The quote will depend on how complex the case is, and we will need to discuss that with you.  You can be assured that we will be up front with you about how much you can expect to spend.   In select cases, we will consider taking the case on a contingency fee, but understand that this is the exception rather than the norm.   

Appeal Process Steps 

There are basically 3 stages to a civil appeal in Mississippi.  First, you file your notice of appeal and other preliminary documents.  Critically, you MUST file your notice of appeal within 30 days of the trial court’s final judgment.  In some cases, you should file a post-trial motion within 10 days of the judgment.  Thus, time is of the essence if you are considering an appeal.  The deadlines cannot be missed, or your right to an appeal will be lost.   Second, you will enter the briefing stage.  This is where you present your argument to the appellate court by filing a brief.  The bulk of the legal work goes into this part of the proceedings.  If you are the party appealing, you will file the first brief.  Then, the opposing party files a responsive brief.  Then, the appealing party can file a rebuttal brief.   Third, once briefing is complete, the case is submitted to the Court for a decision.  The Court then has 270 days to decide the case.   You can expect the full process to take a year to a year and a half from the filing of an appeal through a decision.  

Federal Appeal Process Steps 

The Federal Appeals process in Mississippi is very similar to the state process.  Mississippi has two Federal District Courts, the Northern and Southern District.  If you received an unfavorable decision in one of those courts, then the case can be appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Fifth Circuit is one of the Federal intermediate appeals courts, which rank mid-way between the district courts and the United States Supreme Court.   We have attorneys barred in both of Mississippi’s federal districts as well as in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Therefore, if you are considering an appeal from one of Mississippi’s federal trial courts, we can help. 

Chances of Winning a Civil Appeal 

This is a bit of a loaded question and requires discussing the specifics of your case.  But we do understand the importance of this question, and we always do our best to give you an honest assessment of what we think your true chances of success are.  This allows you to make an informed decision on whether you should appeal or live with the result from the trial court’s judgment.   John S. Grant IV has a career focus in appellate law, with over 10 years’ experience.  If you call our firm regarding an appeal matter, please ask to speak to John and he will be happy to discuss your appeal case.    

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