Court of Civil Appeals Discusses Ore Tenus Standard of Review

In Baldwin v. Panetta, released September 19, 2008, the Court of Civil Appeals discussed the ore tenus standard of review. 

In Baldwin, the plaintiff builders appealed from a judgment in favor of the defendant owners.  Following a two-day bench trial, the circuit court entered a judgment in favor of the owners on the builders’  breach of contract claim and on the owners’ breach of contract and fraud counterclaims.  

Although the judgment contained no express findings of fact, the Court of Civil Appeals noted that, in such cases, it would assume that the trial judge made those findings necessary to suport the judgment.  Explaining the ore tenus standard of review, the court stated: 

Under the ore tenus standard of review, both the trial court’s judgment and all implicit findings necessary to support it carry a presumption of correctness and will not be reversed unless found to be plainly and palpably wrong.

In the absence of factual findings, the court deduced that the circuit court must have determined that the builders failed to prove at least one element of their breach of contract claim against the owners and, correspondingly, that the owners succeeded in proving all the elements of their breach of contract and fraud counterclaims against the builders.  Those determinations were then due to be evaluated to determine if they were plainly and palpably wrong.