How Does An Appellate Court Evaluate an Appeal in a Breach of Contract Case?

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Appeals Court Attorney

An appellate court exercises limited review of a trial court’s fact-finding in a non-jury case. A non-jury case means a case decided by a judge alone, no jury. The Appellate Division court is bound by a trial court’s findings of fact when the judge supports his or her findings by “adequate, substantial, credible evidence,” meaning the witness testimony and submissions into evidence are persuasive. “Deference to a trial judge decision is especially appropriate when the evidence is largely testimonial and involves questions of credibility.” This means that when the trial judge finds the testimony of the witness believable (or unbelievable) an appellate court “should not disturb the factual findings and legal conclusions of the trail judge unless it is convinced that they are so blatantly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant, and reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice.”

“An appeals court will also generally uphold a trial court’s evidentiary rulings, but may overturn the trial court’s evidentiary decision(s) if there is a clear error in the interpretation and appellation of the law as recited in the judgement or if the decision lacks the support of credible evidence in the record if the error was clearly capable of producing an unjust result.”

“Furthermore a trial court’s interpretation of the law and the legal consequences that flow from the facts placed into evidence and the record is not entitled to any Appellate Court deference.” This means the appeals court can reverse the trial judge if it thinks the judge applied the wrong law or entered a judgement incorrectly because he/she got the law “wrong”. This appellate standard often applies in the interpretation of a contract case where the appeals court will.

To discuss your NJ Appeal Court and Contract matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.