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How often do people usually win small claims appeals in California?

San Jose, CA |

The defendant has filed an appeal after I won in small claims court. I want to know if appeals are often granted.

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Attorney answers 3


below is a link to an explaination of the appeals process. Appeals in general are rarely reversed because most of the time the original judge's decision is presumed to be right. Victory on appeal is based not on generalities but the specifics of the case. Did the judge admit inadmissible evidence, where the proper objections made, did that party with the burden of proving the case meet their burden. There are many issues on appeal that could be looked at in the hopes of having the original judges decision overturned.

This is a general discussion of legal principles by a California lawyer and does not create an attorney/client relationship. This is not intended to be legal advice in your specific case. It's impossible to give detailed, accurate advice based on a few sentences on a website. You should always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction who can give you an informed opinion after reviewing all of the relevant information in your case.


Dear ?,

The previous counsel's comment to the effect that appeals rarely reverse the judgment because the original judge's decision is presumed to be right does not apply to small claims court appeals because these "appeals" are de novo hearings before a different court. That is, the judgment of the original judge means nothing in a de novo hearing because it is a new hearing of all the facts starting from the beginning.
So you are going to have to bring all your witnesses and evidence in on the new hearing date and convince the court all over again to decide in your favor.
As to how often the defendant wins in these de novo hearings, there are no statistics to my knowledge . Since attorneys do not appear in small claims court, we have no experience which would help answer your question.

Yours sincerely,
Tim Provis
Cal. Bar No. 104800
Wis. Bar No. 1020123


An appeal from a small claims case in California is reviewed "de novo;" The superior court judge hearing the new trial will not consider what happen at the small claims court trial. The judge will hear the trial all over again as if no small claims trial ever happened. The exception is if the superior court judge finds that the appeal was completely without merit, and only intended to delay or harass the plaintiff; in this case the judge may award sanctions to the plaintiff. Generally, the small claims court judge will have ruled correctly and the new judge will see things the same way, unless new evidence is presented.

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