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error that is not sufficiently prejudicial to the losing party in a lawsuit to warrant the appellate court’s modifying the lower court’s decision. A conclusion that an error is harmless reflects the reviewing court’s determination that the lower court’s decision would have been the same with or without the purported error.
EXAMPLE: The confession of two codefendants are improperly introduced at Vic’s trial. An appellate court may find that the violation was merely harmless error and does not require a new trial for Vic if the confessions had little or no effect upon the jury’s determination of Vic’s guilt.
Compare plain error.
Source: Barron's Dictionary of Legal Terms, Steven H. Gifis, 5th Edition; ©
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