Basic Appellate Principles: “De Novo” Standard of Review

Basic Appellate Principles:


De Novo” Standard of Review


“Matters presenting pure questions of law, not involving the resolution of disputed facts, are subject to the reviewing court’s independent or “de novo” review.” (Diamond Benefits Life Ins. Co. v. Troll (1998) 66 Cal.App4th 1, 5.) Examples of situations involving independent review are numerous:


  • Constitutional issues;
  • Interpretation of statutes and regulations;
  • Legislative validity;
  • Interpretation of writings where no conflicting extrinsic evidence presented;
  • Determining duty of care;
  • Application of the law to undisputed facts;
  • Rulings on demurrers or motions for judgment on the pleadings;
  • Rulings on motions for summary judgment or summary adjudication;
  • Rulings on nonsuit, judgments notwithstanding the verdict or for directed verdict;
  • Erroneous or refused jury instructions.

(See Eisenberg, Horvitz & Wiener, California Practice Guide, Civil Appeals and Writs, The Rutter Group, ¶¶8:110-8:120, pp. 8-53 to 8-57.)


In these cases, the court of appeal looks at the issue the same way as the trial court. This is because these issues are, at their core, issues of law. Issues of law are always reviewed independently, and without regard for how they were decided by the lower court.