“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