In Fladeboe v. American Isuzu Motors, Inc., ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Apr. 23, 2007) (modified Apr. 24, 2007), the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division Three) explained the doctrine of implied findings and how important it is to request a statement of decision after losing a bench trial:
The doctrine of implied findings requires the appellate court to infer the trial court made all factual findings necessary to support the judgment. (Sammis v. Stafford (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1935, 1942.) The doctrine is a natural and logical corollary to three fundamental principles of appellate review: (1) a judgment is presumed correct; (2) all intendments and presumptions are indulged in favor of correctness; and (3) the appellant bears the burden of providing an adequate record affirmatively proving error. (In re Marriage of Arceneaux (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1130, 1133 (Arceneaux); Denham v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 557, 564; Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1295.)
In a bench trial, how does an appellant obtain a record affirmatively proving the trial court erred by failing to make factual findings on an issue? The appellant must secure a statement of decision under Code of Civil Procedure section 632 and, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 634, bring any ambiguities and omissions in the statement of decision to the trial court’s attention. ....
Securing a statement of decision is the first step, but is not necessarily enough, to avoid the doctrine of implied findings. Litigants must also bring ambiguities and omissions in the statement of decision’s factual findings to the trial court’s attention—or suffer the consequences. Code of Civil Procedure section 634 states if omissions or ambiguities in the statement of decision’s factual findings are timely brought to the trial court’s attention, “it shall not be inferred on appeal ... that the trial court decided in favor of the prevailing party as to those facts or on that issue.”
The Arceneaux court explained the “clear implication” of section 634 is that if a party fails to bring omissions or ambiguities in the statement of decision’s factual findings to the trial court’s attention, then “that party waives the right to claim on appeal that the statement was deficient in these regards,” and the appellate court will infer the trial court made implied factual findings to support the judgment. (Arceneaux, supra, 51 Cal.3d at pp. 1133?1134.) “[S]ection 634 clearly refers to a party’s need to point out deficiencies in the trial court’s statement of decision as a condition of avoiding such implied findings, rather than merely to request such a statement initially as provided in section 632.” (Id. at p. 1134.) In contrast, a party does not waive objections to legal errors appearing on the face of the statement of decision by failing to respond to it. (United Services Auto. Assn. v. Dalrymple (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 182, 186.)
Thus, as the Arceneaux court explained, the statutes describe a two-step process for avoiding implied factual findings. First, a party must request a statement of decision pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 632. (Arceneaux, supra, 51 Cal.3d at p. 1134.) Second, if the trial court issues a statement of decision, a party claiming omissions or ambiguities in the factual findings must bring the omissions or ambiguities to the trial court’s attention. (Ibid.)
If the party challenging the statement of decision fails to bring omissions or ambiguities in it to the trial court’s attention, then, under Code of Civil Procedure section 634, the appellate court will infer the trial court made implied factual findings favorable to the prevailing party on all issues necessary to support the judgment, including the omitted or ambiguously resolved issues. (Arceneaux, supra, 51 Cal.3d at pp. 1133-1134; SFPP v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 452, 462; Tusher v. Gabrielsen (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 131, 140.) The appellate court then reviews the implied factual findings under the substantial evidence standard. (Michael U. v. Jamie B. (1985) 39 Cal.3d 787, 792-793; SFPP v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co., supra, 121 Cal.App.4th at p. 462; County of Solano v. Vallejo Redevelopment Agency (1999) 75 Cal.App.4th 1262, 1277.) “[The appellant] did not raise any objections to the statement of decision. We therefore are required to presume the trial court made all findings necessary to support the judgment.” (Sammis v. Stafford, supra, 48 Cal.App.4th 1935, 1942.)
Slip op. at 16-18. The Court of Appeal described requesting a statement of decision in the trial court as the appellants' "first step toward meeting their burden of proving error" on appeal. Id. at 19. In this case, the appellants "failed to take any steps toward creating a record affirmatively showing the trial court did not make factual findings on the consent issue or made erroneous findings." Id. at 20. Not surprisingly, the judgment was affirmed. Id.