A recent appellate ruling reversed the trial court’s decision and cleared the president of a carpentry company from individual liability after the lower court found that he had filed a fraudulent claim of lien. The ruling has the potential to affect many other cases in which the courts determine that a claim of lien is fraudulent and, as a result, statutory damages are awarded.
In the case of Bruce Tansey Custom Carpentry, Inc. v. Goodman, Edmond B. Tansey, as president of the carpentry company, contracted with Goodman and subsequently filed a claim of lien and an amended claim of lien against Goodman. In its final judgment, the trial court determined that the contracting parties were Gary W. Goodman, Jennifer Goodman, Edmond B. Tansey, individually, and Bruce Tansey Construction, which was the fictitious name of Edmond B. Tansey at the time that the contracts were executed.
The trial court found that Tansey’s claim of lien and amended claim of lien were fraudulent, and that Edmond B. Tansey, individually, and Bruce Tansey Custom Carpentry, Inc. were both liable to the Goodmans for statutory damages. The Florida Second District Court of Appeals reversed the ruling that Tansey was individually liable on the grounds that the complaint and amended complaint did not allege individual liability and, even if the complaints had alleged that Tansey was individually liable, the evidence did not support individual liability because Custom Carpentry was the lienor and Tansey signed the liens as president of Custom Carpentry. The appellate ruling also found that neither the original lien nor the amended lien stated or implied that Tansey, individually, was the lienor.
The attorneys who focus on construction law in South Florida at our firm as well as others throughout the state will be sure to reference this decision whenever questions arise about individual liability in cases where the court finds that a claim of lien is fraudulent. Our firm will continue to monitor and share information about important court decisions for the Florida construction industry in this blog, and we encourage industry members to submit their e-mail address in the box on the right in order to subscribe to the blog and automatically receive all of our future posts.