Friday, December 19, 2008

Critical filing date for a claim of lien

In D.C. Ecker Constr. Inc. v. Ponce Inv. LLC (Case No. A08A107 November 25, 2008), the Georgia Court of Appeals issued an interesting opinion concerning the timeliness of a lien claim. Ecker filed a claim of lien which recited that the claim became due on June 16, 2006, three months and five days before the lien was filed. The trial court, based on the owner's motion to dismiss, ruled that the lien was untimely filed (it was not filed within three months as required by the mechanic's lien statute) and dismissed the action. The Court of Appeals reversed, explaining that the lien claimant had inserted both the June 16, 2006 date, as well as a statement that the lien was filed within three months since the furnishing of the lien claimant's services, labor and materials.
The Court of Appeals explained that the crucial date is the last date that materials or labor was furnished to the project, not the date the claim became due. The Court stressed that the claim could become due after the materials, labor or services were last provided. Previously, many courts treated those two dates as one and the same. The Court distinguished previous cases in which liens were deemed untimely, because they contained only the date, and not a boilerplate statement that the lien was filed within three months after the last date that materials or labor were furnished. Certainly this is an interesting case showing the importance of a boilerplate statement, and giving some benefit of the doubt to the claimant (in an area of the law that sometimes shows no mercy for the unwary).