What at does it mean to win or lose an appeal?

Appellate courts generally take one of three actions: affirm, reverse, or remand. The court can have multiple results in one case. For example, each of three issues presented on appeal could have a different result. Who "won" and who "lost" the appeal depends on a review of how each appellate issue was decided.


Further appellate review may be sought, providing the opportunity for a new result by a higher court. For example, it is possible to lose an appeal (i.e., in the Massachusetts Appeals Court) but ultimately win the appeal in a higher court (e.g., in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court or in the Supreme Court of the United States).


If the appellate court "affirms" the lower court, the lower court's decision remains in effect as if the appeal did not occur. This is a win for the party defending the lower court's decision.


If the appellate court "reverses" the lower court, the lower court's decision is undone. For example, if a the lower court is the trial court who granted summary judgment, that grant is vacated and the case is placed back on the trial docket. The case continues as if the trial court never granted the summary judgment motion. This is a win for the party challenging the lower court's decision.


If the appellate court "remands" to the lower court, it provides the lower court with instructions on work that needs to be done. This is a win for the person challenging the lower court's decision, but not necessarily a loss for the party defending the judgment. The result depends upon what the lower court does after re-deciding the case in light of the appellate ruling.


More answers to frequently ask questions about appeals are available on this website. If you have additional questions, or are ready to proceed with your appeal, call Appellate Attorney William Driscoll at 978-846-5184.