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Plain Error Review, Appeals

Appeals have their own set of rules and procedures. Generally, an appellate court will overturn a trial court’s decision only if there was some issue the trial court was made aware of and decided incorrectly. Appellate courts are reluctant and/or unable to overturn a trial court’s judgment on issues that were not before it. By way of example, in jury trial cases, a party claiming an error must first typically file a motion for new trial to to preserve allegations of error for appellate review. See Rule 78.07. The reasoning is that it is unjust to overturn a lower court’s ruling on an issue which the parties do not bring to its attention. 

There is an exception to this rule. An appellate court has discretion to review unpreserved claims of error for “plain error.” Saint Louis Cnty v. River Bend Estates Homeowners Ass’n, 408 S.W.3d 116, 125 n.6 (Mo. 2013). Plain error review is rarely granted in civil cases. Id. An appellate court will review an unpreserved allegation of error for plain error only if there are (1) substantial grounds for believing that the trial court committed error that is evident, obvious and clear and where the error (2) resulted in a manifest injustice or miscarriage of justice. Id.; Rule 78.08. 

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