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Articles Posted in Construction lien

Nick-Siegfried-2013-thumb-160x240-60131For insight into the ramifications of important court rulings involving construction law in South Florida, the region’s most widely read and highly regarded business and real estate media outlets often turn to the expertise of our firm’s construction lawyers.  The latest example can be found in articles on an appellate ruling against the Trump National Doral golf resort that appeared today in the Daily Business Review, The Real Deal and South Florida Business Journal.  Journalists from all three of these outlets interviewed firm partner Nicholas D. Siegfried, who is board certified in construction law by The Florida Bar, and quoted him in their articles.

The litigation stems from The Paint Spot’s 2014 lien against Trump National Doral Miami, which is owned by companies belonging to President Donald Trump.  The paint supplier claimed it was due a final payment of approximately $32,000 from the resort.  The renovation project utilized two contractors, and a Trump representative inadvertently handed The Paint Spot incorrect contractor information for its pre-suit notice to owner.

The Trump company argued the lien was invalid because The Paint Spot had served the wrong contractor.  However, the appellate court ruled that the resort had actual knowledge of the supplier’s “notice to owner,” which had “substantially complied with statutory requirements.”

dbr-logo-300x57The end result for the Trump company is that by fighting the $32,000 bill, it will now end up paying well over 10 times as much just for the plaintiff’s attorney fees.  According to the report by the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, the resort is now facing a legal tab of approximately $390,000 to cover the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

That’s because the circuit court ruling applied a risk, or contingency fee, multiplier of 1.75 to calculate The Paint Spot’s reasonable attorney rates, which amounted to approximately $284,000 prior to the appeal.  Now the company expects to tack on the multiplier for the appellate proceedings, multiplying the $75,000 it incurred on appeal also by 1.75.  In addition, the amount for the lien itself has ballooned with interest to about $50,000, and the costs for the resort’s own legal fees undoubtedly are also very substantial.

The article concludes:

“This is what happens in these cases.  Legal fees start to drive it,” said construction attorney Nicholas Siegfried, who was not involved in the litigation. “It appears that it got to a point where the parties were really fighting about the fees, and both sides dug in on their position,” he said.

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Nick-Siegfried-2013-200x300The firm’s Nicholas D. Siegfried authored an article that appeared as a “Board of Contributors” guest column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Contractor’s Fraudulent Lien Doesn’t Mean Owner Automatically Wins,” focuses on the surprising results of a recent ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeal involving a contractor’s lien that the lower court found to be fraudulent.  His article reads:

For those in the construction industry, the right to impose a lien against the improved property in the event of nonpayment is an effective tool to get paid. Chapter 713, Florida Statutes, as well as countless cases require lienors to prepare their liens accurately and to include only lienable items. The failure to properly prepare a claim of lien can result in a claim for punitive damages and exposure to attorney fees and costs.

However, based upon a Fourth District Court of Appeal case, not all is lost if a contractor’s lien is discharged as fraudulent. In fact, despite a contractor’s fraudulent lien, a contractor can still be deemed the prevailing party in an action against an owner and avoid a claim for attorney’s fees.

In Scott Newman v. Sony Construction et al., the homeowner retained the general contractor to build an addition to his home. When the owner failed to pay, the contractor ceased work, recorded a claim of lien for approximately $134,000 and later recorded a partial release of lien reducing the lien to about $100,000.

The contractor filed suit against the owner for foreclosure of the construction lien, breach of contract and quantum meruit (payments due that are not enforceable under contract). The owner filed a counterclaim against the contractor for fraudulent lien and breach of contract, and the parties subsequently agreed to a bifurcated proceeding whereby the trial court would first determine whether the claim of lien was fraudulent prior to a trial on the remaining issues.

The trial court found that many of the charges included in the lien amount by the contractor were not lienable. These included a charge for approximately $15,000 for supervision and an additional $22,200 for the contractor’s 20 percent profit margin. The trial court found that these charges, which represented a large percentage of the lien, were not supported by the contract between the parties and therefore were not lienable items. dbr-logo-300x57 It also found other charges included in the lien for pool cleaning chemicals and services, hand tools purchased for use at the job site but not left on the premises after completion, air-conditioning warranty work and rental equipment abandoned by the contractor at the job site were “not lienable by any stretch of the imagination.”

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Michael Clark Gort photo-thumb-160x240-13551Firm partner B. Michael Clark, Jr. authored an article that appeared in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper.  The article, which was titled “Ruling Creates Opening for Property Owners to Escape from Liens,” focuses on the implications of a recent ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal that has created a potential new opening for property owners to quickly wipe away the lien rights of unwary lienors.  Michael’s article reads:

The decision came in the case of Georgia Hiller v. Phoenix Associates of South Florida. Hiller, a homeowner, contracted Phoenix for work on her home and then allegedly failed to pay. Phoenix recorded a lien against her property, and Hiller responded by posting a transfer bond to remove the cloud of the encumbrance from the property.

Hiller proceeded to record a notice of contest under section 713.22(2), shortening the time frame for Phoenix to commence an action against the transfer bond to 60 days.

The contractor had already filed a complaint against Hiller to foreclose the lien as well as for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. However, despite having notice of the transfer and the contest, it failed to commence an action against the surety within the 60-day deadline. Instead, after the passage of more than 60 days, it filed a motion to amend its complaint to add the surety of the transfer bond to the suit.

dbrlogo-thumb-220x41-94239Hiller, presuming that the transfer bond automatically extinguished after the 60 days elapsed, filed a motion for the release of the transfer bond, which was denied by the trial court and became the basis for her appeal.

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In a recent appellate ruling with significant precedential implications for litigation by contractors against construction lenders in Florida, the court found that Florida’s Construction Lien Law bars common law remedies for contractors to sue lenders for work performed by the contractors and other lienors. The court affirmed the lower court’s summary judgment for a lender over a contractor’s claims stemming from a failed housing development.

A recent case involving an engineering firm’s lawsuit for nonpayment against a Miami Beach condominium association illustrates the importance for contractors and engineers to file liens for work performed under a single contract as opposed to umbrella liens for services rendered under multiple contracts.

MichaelKurzman_59661.jpgThe recent ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal that firm shareholder Michael Kurzman wrote about in the preceding blog post below was the subject of a front-page article in the Oct. 1 issue of the Daily Business Review. The article, which was titled “Third DCA Says Company Can’t Foreclose on Itself,” focused on the tactics used by a Coral Gables developer to attempt to eliminate the claims and liens filed against it by general contractor CDC Builders, Inc.

On behalf of my client CDC Builders, Inc., I was very pleased to have served as the company’s lead trial court counsel and appellate co-counsel (special thank you to John K. Shubin and Deana D. Falce with Shubin & Bass, P.A.for all of their hard work on this case) in its recent successful appeal before the Third District Court of Appeal. CDC appealed a trial court’s decision that could have had significant negative implications for Florida’s construction industry. Indeed, we were assisted on the appeal by the South Florida Chapter of the Associated General Contractors in an Amicus Curiae brief, as this case was of critical importance to the construction industry.

Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal recently issued an important opinion in the case of Snell v. Mott’s Contracting Services, Inc., over the issue of lien rights and the differences between arbitration and litigation.

Michael Clark Gort photo.jpgOne of the most recent articles by our attorneys in publications covering the industries that we serve was authored by B. Michael Clark, Jr. and appeared on the cover page of the latest issue of the Newsletter from Division 7 of American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry. The article, titled “Subordinate Lienors Must Explore All Options for Payment,” focuses on one of perhaps the most pressing legal and business issue for contractors, subcontractors and suppliers today: securing payment in foreclosure cases in which they are a subordinate lienor to the foreclosing lender.

I recently had the honor of appearing as a special guest on the ArchiTalk radio show airing on 880-AM “The Biz” in South Florida on Mondays at 11 a.m. Local architects Sebastian Eilert and Jane Decker host the show, which focuses on what’s happening in the South Florida architecture world and beyond. Additional info on the show can be found at www.architalkradio.com.