A trial de novo is a new trial on an entire case, where both questions of fact and issues of law are determined as if there had been no trial in the first instance. A trial de novo is typically used to challenge awards found in arbitration and are supported by constitutional considerations. Indeed, while courts allow compulsory arbitration as a means of promoting expeditious resolution of smaller cases on the merits, they also must permit an unsuccessful party who participated in the compulsory arbitration to demand a trial de novo given the constitutional right to a jury trial.
Demanding a trial de novo does have certain procedural requirements. For example, Washington courts have held that a party to an arbitration award who is aggrieved may request a trial de novo in a superior court by serving and filing, with the clerk of the superior court, within 20 days after the arbitration award is filed. The time limit to demand a trial de novo after an arbitration award has been filed also varies by jurisdiction. For example, in New York, the time to demand a trial de novo should be done within 30 days of a filing of an arbitration award.
It is also required that all other parties appearing in the case be notified of any demand for a trial de novo. A party may not demand a trial de novo on only one portion of an arbitration award while allowing another portion to stand. So, in a trial de novo, any previous arbitration award is wholly discarded. Lastly, a trial de novo can only be held on the basis of an arbitration award. Therefore, if a settlement is reached, then there is no right to a trial de novo.
[Last updated in November of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]