Construction and Commercial Real Estate Law

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Superior Court Decision Creates New Favorable Case Law For Mechanic’s Lien Claimants!

Davis Bucco is pleased to announce that it has obtained a favorable appellate decision reversing the trial court decision, and upholding the validity of a Mechanic’s Lien over a property owner’s attempts to strike that lien. The Superior Court decision also provides new case law favorable to lien claimants. The decision provides that under the Pennsylvania Mechanic’s Lien Law of 1963, as amended, fatal defects in a lien can be waived as defense if not timely raised.

In the decision, the Court agreed with Davis Bucco’s argument that raising a defense to the lien for the first-time after trial amounted to a waiver of that defense. The Court held that an improper service defense, if not raised by preliminary objection pursuant to Section 505 of the Lien Law, must be raised during the lien enforcement proceeding to be preserved. If it is not timely raised, then the defense is waived. In this case, the defendant-homeowner claimed the contractor’s failure to record an affidavit of service within 20-days after serving the lien was fatal to the lien. However, this defense was never raised by preliminary objection. The defense was not raised during the litigation, the trial or by post-trial motions. The homeowner raised the defense for the first time in a separate petition to strike the lien filed after the trial was complete, and the matter decided on the merits. The petition asserting this new defense was raised for the first time nearly five years after the lien was filed, and three years after litigation was filed to enforce the lien. The Court reasoned that its decision in this case was consistent with an earlier holding from more than a century ago, under the 1901 version of the Pennsylvania Mechanic’s Lien Law, that fatal defects in a lien could be waived as a defense.

While the Court recognized the Mechanic’s Lien Law’s provisions must be “strictly construed,” the court reasoned this requirement did not prevent the waiver of a defense arising from this requirement to strictly construe the statute. Importantly, this decision also confirms that the holding applied under the 1901 version of the Mechanic’s Lien Law is still valid law under the Mechanic’s Lien Law of 1963, as amended. This decision establishes a significant new source of legal authority favoring mechanic’s lien claimants. The decision tempers the harshness the of the rule requiring that the statute be strictly construed by allowing such defenses to be waived. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about a mechanic’s lien, or feel free to visit our website to review the decision.