This tip for bench trials in Louisiana is a no-brainer: If you lose, file a timely request for the trial court’s findings of fact and reasons for judgment. “Timely” means within 10 days after mailing of the notice of final judgment. See La. Code Civ. P. art. 1917(A). In tort cases where more than one person’s fault is at issue, include a request for specific findings concerning who was at fault, whether the person’s fault was a legal cause of the damage, and the degree or percentage of the person’s fault. See La. Code Civ. P. arts. 1917(B) and 1812(C).
The reason you must do this is simple: the court of appeal cannot review the trial court’s reasons for judgment if no reasons for judgment are given. See Liprie v. Liprie, 553 So. 2d 1094, 1096 (La. App. 3 Cir. 1989) (“[I]t is not incumbent on this court to determine the sufficiency of the trial judge’s reasons for judgment, as there was no timely request for findings of fact and reasons for judgment entered by the plaintiff.”). In such cases, the judgment will be presumed to be correct and decided according to law, and you will have the burden of showing otherwise. Karisny v. Sunshine Biscuits, Inc., 215 So. 2d 201, 202 (La. App. 3 Cir. 1968). And if you don’t make a timely request for written reasons, you cannot complain on appeal of the trial court’s failure to give them. See Royal Oldsmobile Co. v. Heisler Props., LLC, 119 So. 3d 84, 90 (La. App. 5 Cir. 2013).