Small Mistake High Price in Mechanic’s Liens

In the Field of Mechanic’s Liens, a Small Spelling Error has Large Price Tag

Mechanic’s Lien laws are notoriously complex and courts across the nation are often strict when determining compliance with statutes.  A New York court recently issued a decision which highlights the high costs of seemingly minor technical mishaps in the filing of a mechanic’s lien.

The Supreme Court of New York

New York County ruled in A. & L. Construction Corp. v. East Harlem Developers, LLC, that the plaintiff, A. & L. Construction Corp., lost the ability to foreclose its mechanic’s lien due to a minor error in the spelling of its name on the lien.

A. & L. Construction (A. & L.) filed proceedings to foreclose a mechanic’s lien against East Harlem Developers in the amount of $150,229.79.  The defendant, East Harlem Developers, filed a motion for summary judgment alleging the mechanic’s lien was invalid because the plaintiff, A. & L. Construction, is not the corporation named on the mechanic’s lien and the contract.

Evidently, on both the mechanic’s lien and the contract, the entity listed is “A&L Construction Corp.,” not “A. & L. Construction Corp.”  The defendant alleged it never did business with A&L Construction, which had different owners than A. & L., never did business with the defendant, and was dissolved three years before the parties contracted and work begin on the project.

The court explained that A. & L. had actually filed a previous action to enforce its mechanic’s lien which was dismissed for lack of standing.  A. & L. was instructed to re-file an action with its correct legal name and to correct its corporate name on the mechanic’s lien.  While A. & L. filed the current action with the correct name, it did not amend the existing mechanic’s lien.

“The Mechanic’s Lien is Unenforceable!”

A. & L. contended it was a mere scrivener’s error that misspelled the corporate name on the contract and mechanic’s lien. It urges that this minor error should not affect the validity of its mechanic’s lien.

The court, however, disagreed.

It turned to the language of the lien statute which requires the notice of lien state the name of the lienor. It found A. & L. failed to provide any evidence that the spelling was a scrivener’s error besides the plain assertion.  Accordingly, the court held the lien to be unenforceable and granted summary judgment to East Harlem.

The case of A. & L. illustrates the harsh consequences of even a minor error in the realm of mechanic’s liens. The difference between “A&L” and “A. & L.” is miniscule.  It is hardly even noticeable; a difference of two periods and two spaces.  A. & L. had likely taken to referring to itself as the simplified A&L for shorthand purposes, and failed to correct itself on official documents.

To a layperson, the error appears minor and understandable.  However, to the New York court, the error was significant enough to cost A. & L. a $150,229.79 mechanic’s lien.

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