Before the weekend starts, we wanted to comment on the recent flurry of Georgia cases involving mechanics and construction liens. There have been multiple rulings, and I’m pleased to report that for the most part, they interpret Georgia’s lien laws in favor of material suppliers, subcontractors, and lien claimants!
In the next several posts, we’ll be giving you more details on at least four recent decisions affecting your ability to comply with Georgia’s Mechanics and Materialmen’s Statute. But, we are going to start with the one case which is not as favorable towards lien claimants as the other cases we will tell you about shortly.
You may remember from our blog post Some Bad News For Georgia Lien Claimants, that the Georgia Court of Appeals came down with a heavy hand regarding typographical errors contained in liens in the matter styled Handy Andy of Eastman, Inc. v. Evans. In that blog post, I expressed hope that the lien claimant would appeal the Court of Appeals ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court. They did! I am sad to say, however, that Georgia’s Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling, and they found that the material supplier’s failure to strictly comply with the notice provision of materialman’s lien statute invalidated its claim of lien.
Regardless, this ruling is not as bad as it may seem at first blush.
In the written opinion of the Court of Appeals, the court seemed to place a great deal of emphasis on a typographical errors (see previous blog post for the factual background) which led them to the conclusion that typographical errors could be fatal to the enforcement of a supplier’s lien in Georgia. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, emphasized that the particular typographical error resulted in an incorrect notice to the real property owner. Thus, the Georgia Court did not say that any or all typographical errors could invalidate a mechanic’s lien; instead, it is the specific typographical mistake which might invalidate a lien.
In the Handy Andy case, the alleged typographical errors were contained in a statutorily mandated section. This section gives the owner of the real estate which is liened a notice about the applicable law. In fact, there were two such errors contained in this mandated section in the mechanics lien filed by Handy Andy. Thus, the Supreme Court found that Handy Andy’s lien as written gave the real estate owner misinformation regarding Georgia’s Lien Law. Since Handy Andy’s lien provided the owner with incorrect information, the court reasoned that the lien claimant (Handy Andy) did not “strictly comply” with the requirements for enforcing a materialmen’s lien in Georgia. The court went on to remind us all that, “Strict compliance with the materialman’s lien statutes is required because a materialman’s lien effectively permits the transfer of liability from the person who actually contracted with the materialman for materials to be used in improving real estate to the owner of the improved property, even though that property owner usually will have no relationship with the materialman, contractually or otherwise.”
Handy Andy lost its lien due to two errors contained in a very important part of the lien. Thus, it is incumbent on lien claimants to file their Georgia mechanics liens correctly. We cannot urge potential lien claimants to contact a Georgia construction law firm such as the Cobb Law Group to help them file a valid Claim of Lien.
Please leave your comments regarding the Georgia Supreme Court’s holding. Do you think it is fair?
Thanks for the update on this particular case. I was able to find the court of appeal opinion on Google Scholar, but do you know where we can find the Supreme Court’s opinion?
I agree with you that this decision is a bit unfortunate, but I hope it is limited in its application. I understand why the courts considered this particular typographical error as “misinformation” and not a mere technology. I hope this decision doesn’t gain steam and invalidate liens that have true typos that do not rise to “misinformation.”
The decision is interesting in that its one of the first SC decisions on Geogria’s most recent lien law statutory changes. We now know that the new required provision is going to be strictly construed. I wonder what would have happened if the statement had other mistakes in it, which didn’t change the meaning of the sentence. What, for example, would have happened if the word “period” was left off the end of the statement…
I am publishing a blog post on this on our constructionlienblog.com (being published on Tuesday, Sept 6). WIll be accessible at this link: http://tinyurl.com/3dlxcgz