Appellate Insights

Jan 11, 2018 Alana H. Rotter
I Object!

A party that fails to preserve its evidentiary objections in the trial court forfeits any appellate challenge to the admission of the evidence.  Here are some guidelines for avoiding a forfeiture:

  • If the trial court definitively denies a pre-trial motion in limine to exclude evidence, the evidentiary issue is preserved for appeal—the party need not object again during trial.
  • If the trial court denies a pre-trial motion in limine without prejudice, or subject to the issue being revisited at trial, the moving party must renew its objection at trial to preserve the issue.
  • If there is any doubt about whether a pre-trial evidentiary ruling was definitive or without prejudice, clear it up on the record before trial.
  • An objection at trial must be both timely (immediately before or as the evidence is presented) and specific.  The Court of Appeal will refuse to consider grounds for objection that were not asserted at trial.

►  The practical message:  Be sure that the record reflects your evidentiary objections, and that you continued to renew the objections until receiving a definitive ruling on them.