Decision will Create New Law Impacting the Obligations Of Mechanic’s Lien Claimants
Davis Bucco & Makara partner, David Makara, recently argued a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that should be closely followed because of its impact on the rights of Mechanic’s Lien claimants.
DBM represented the contractor in the matter Terra Firma v. King, which involved enforcement of the contractor’s Mechanic’s Lien for unpaid work. The parties proceeded through the litigation, and a trial on the merits, without the property owner ever raising a successful challenge to the lien’s validity. After the trial, however, the property owner attempted to raise for the first time, in a post-trial motion, a new defense. The property owner attempted to argue that the affidavit of service for the lien was allegedly not filed within the required 20-days from the date of service, as required by the Mechanic’s Lien Law to perfect the lien. The property owner never asserted this defense until after a full trial on the merits concluded. Eventually, the issue reached the Superior Court on appeal. After hearing from the parties, the Superior Court ruled that the property owner’s defense had been waived and was untimely because it was raised for the first time by post-trial motion. The defense could not be used at that point to defeat the lien. The property owner then appealed to the Supreme Court on this case of first impression. Mr. Makara appeared on behalf of the contractor before the Supreme Court as well. During argument, the Court raised the case of Terra Technical services v. Percheron et al., which holds that a complaint to enforce a mechanics’ lien may be filed under a separate docket number or the same docket number of the lien, and still be valid), which Mr. Makara had also previously argued successfully before the Court. Mr. Makara proceeded to highlight the holding of Terra Technical Services v. Percheron et. al., in support of Terra Firma’s argument. The parties are now awaiting the Court’s decision.
The case presents important new precedent for Mechanic’s Lien claimants because the Mechanic’s Lien statue is “strictly construed”, meaning the failure to follow its requirements can be fatal to the lien. However, here, the failure to timely raise an alleged non-compliance with a requirement that is normally “strictly construed” will not defeat the lien. This creates an important and new defense for Mechanic’s Lien claimants.
DBMD has a strong history in establishing case law under the Mechanic’s Lien Law. Rule 1653 “Commencement Of Action” was recently amended, in part, based upon the holding from a Mechanic’s Lien case also previously argued by David Makara. In Terra Technical v. Percheron, et al., several mechanics’ liens were filed to secure payment of the contractor’s work that was apportioned over several parcels. When complaints to enforce the liens were filed, they were filed under the docket for each separately filed lien. The trial court ruled that each complaint should have been filed under a new, separate docket number to enforce all the separately filed liens, and dismissed the liens on that basis. However, on appeal, DMB in representing the Contractor, was successful in arguing that each lien should have been enforced by a complaint filed under each lien’s same individual docket number for each parcel. Following the Supreme Court’s holding in this case, Rule 1653, in its comment, referenced that lack of clarity in the Rule on this issue, and the reason for the Rule’s subsequent amendment. Rule 1653 has as a result, now been amended to expressly require that, in enforcing a mechanic’s lien “[t]he complaint shall be filed under the same docket number as the claim for the mechanic’s lien.” We will continue to provide you updates this case and other important issues involving Mechanic’s Liens as well as other commercial matters. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have an any questions on this or other matters. Our office number is 610-238-0880, or you can email us directly at: