Appeal, Remand, Law of the Case

If a civil case is successfully appealed, and the appellate court remands (i.e., sends back down to the trial court for further proceedings), the findings and determinations of the court of appeals may constitute the “law of the case.”

The “law of the case” doctrine applies to “successive adjudications involving the same issues and facts.” Shahan v. Shahan, 988 S.W.2d 529, 533 (Mo. 1999). It generally means that a decision by a court is the “law of the case” for all points presented and decided, as well as for matters that arose prior to the first adjudication and might have been raised but were not. Walton v. City of Berkeley, 223 S.W.3d 126, 129 (Mo. 2007). It almost always applies in the context of appeals — specifically, it precludes re-litigation of an issue on remand and subsequent appeal. Id. The purpose of the doctrine is to maintain judicial resources and insure uniformity of decisions. Id.

There are some nuances and exceptions to this rule. The denial of a writ without opinion does not constitute the law of the case. Rodriguez v. Suzuki Motor Corp., 996 S.W.2d 47 (Mo. 1999). Further, it does not apply when a change in the law intervenes. State ex rel. Alma Telephone Co. v. Public Service Commission, 40 S.W.3d 381 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001).

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