Too many people go into an appeal so certain that the trial court erred so obviously that reversal must result. This is rarely because the attorney doesn’t know that the error must have resulted in prejudice to warrant reversal, but because the attorney gives insufficient thought to the question of whether the error was genuinely prejudicial. As a result, the question o prejudice is not presented very well in the brief.
I’m not sure exactly what was going through the mind of the attorney representing the defendant/appellant in Twenty-Nine Palms Enterprises Corporation v. Bardos, case no. E051769 (Fourth Dist., Nov. 13, 2012). He might have had some very reasonable arguments that prejudice resulted from the error, and might even have presented a thorough argument in the appellant’s brief. For many, however, the sheer magnitude of the asserted error — that the trial court abused its discretion by summarily sustaining 48 pages of objections to the appellant’s evidence submitted in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, without any reasoning in support of the ruling — might tempt some lawyers, and certainly many parties, into believing that there just had to be some resulting prejudice, without giving sufficient thought to the matter.
The Court of Appeal agrees that the trial court abused its discretion in summarily sustaining the objections, but finds there was no resulting prejudice. Even giving consideration to all of the evidence the appellant introduced below, the appellant still failed to raise a triable issue that would preclude entry of summary judgment.
Clients (and some attorneys) need to be reminded: it’s not error that will get you a reversal, it’s prejudicial error that will get you a reversal.