What Is a Trial De Novo?

“Trial de novo” means “new trial,” a second bite at the apple, so to speak.

While it is possible under certain circumstances to get a new trial in the same court as the first trial, the term “trial de novo” really refers to a new trial in a different or higher court.  A trial de novo, therefore, is a type of appeal. 

A trial de novo is a very different type of appeal, though.  In normal appeals, new evidence is not permitted – a decision is either affirmed or overruled based on the record and a determination of whether the judge committed reversible error during the trial. 

With a trial de novo, not only may new evidence be presented, the evidence presented in the second trial may differ dramatically – both in quality and in quantity - from the evidence which was offered or admitted in the original trial.  The advantage of a de novo trial, therefore, is one of hindsight, in that the appealing party will have additional time and opportunity to gather and organize the evidence to be presented at the second trial and, ideally, learn from the mistakes made during the first go-around.

When is a party entitled to a trial de novo?  I’ll answer that one in my next blog.

– Bonnie Sudderth, Judge of the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, Texas

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4 Responses to What Is a Trial De Novo?

  1. Daryl Brown says:

    CAN Washington State JUDGE AT THEIR DISCRETION ORDER A TRIAL DE NOVO WITHOUT NOTICE TO THE REQUESTING PARTY? I ENJOYED YOUR ARTICLE.

    • Because I’m not licensed to practice law in Washington, I can’t tell you what the rules permit or prohibit there. I can say that, generally speaking, all parties should have notice and an opportunity to be heard on matters related to court proceedings. What form that notice and opportunity to be heard takes will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

  2. dawn says:

    In a trial de novo from small claims court (Texas), may additional parties and allegations be maid through amended pleadings?

    • Generally speaking, yes, but there are limitations to this, as well as deadlines that will apply. If, on de novo appeal, a party is planning to expand the original small claims case to include additional parties and claims, I would strongly suggest that an attorney be engaged to perform the legal work. (The de novo appeal is the proverbial second bite at the apple. Since there won’t be a third bite, it needs to be done right.)

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