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Babst Calland: Pa. Superior Court Requires Strict Compliance With Mechanics’ Lien Law

By Rick Kalson

A non-precedential opinion issued on November 22, 2013 by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Advanced Construction Services, Inc. v. Cumberland Dining Group, Inc.illustrates the importance of strictly complying with the Pennsylvania Mechanics’ Lien Law’s service requirements. In reaching its decision, the Court stated that ” a mechanics’ lien is an ‘extraordinary remedy’ that should only be afforded to contractors or subcontractors who judiciously adhere to the requirements of the Mechanics’ Lien Law.”

Advanced Construction constructed a restaurant for Cumberland Dining Group in a mall in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. The mall was owned by J.J. Gumberg of Pittsburgh. Section 1502 of the Mechanics’ Lien Law requires that the owner is directly served at the owner’s residence or that the owner’s authorized agent in charge is served at any of the owner’s offices or usual place of business. In this instance, the court ruled that the contractor failed to properly serve the owner when it directed the sheriff to serve the mall owner at the address of the restaturant in the mall as opposed to at the owner’s headquarters in Pittsburgh. Directing the sheriff to serve the manager of the restaurant who did not have any connection to the mall owner was insufficient because the contractor failed to serve the mall owner or its authorized agent. Furthermore, the contractor did not demonstrate that the place of service was the mall owner’s office or usual place of business. The deed in question listed the mall owner’s address as its offices in Pittsburgh.

This case is noteworthy as it relates the 2012 ruling from the Superior Court in Bricklayers of Western Pennsylvania Combined Funds, Inc. v. Scott’s Development Co., [enhanced opinion available to subscribers] where the court ruled that the substantive provisions, as opposed to procedural aspects, of the Mechanics’ Lien Law must be liberally construed to affect Lien Law’s remedial purpose. The Advanced Construction Services decision suggests that Pennsylvania court will still strictly enforce the procedural aspects of the Lien Law. Therefore, before filing a mechanic’s lien, claimants must be sure to completely comply with all of the many procedural requirements of the statute including the service requirements.

 Copyright 2013 • Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir, P.C. • Two Gateway Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 • 412-394-5400 • Administrative Watch is privately distributed by Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir, P.C., for the general information of its clients, friends and readers. It is not designed to be, nor should it be considered or used as, the sole source of analyzing and resolving legal problems. If you have, or think you may have, a legal problem or issue relating to any of the matters discussed in the Administrative Watch, consult legal counsel.

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