Fourth District Reversed Dismissal of a Mechanic’s Lien Claim

Marble Unlimited, Inc. v. Weston Real Estate Inv. Corp., 4D11-3113 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013):

Marble Unlimited, Inc. (“Marble”) is a granite countertop subcontractor. In 2003, Marble contracted with Weston Real Estate Investment Corporation (“Weston Investment”) to renovate buildings within a condominium complex. Marble completed renovations on the contracted buildings and received payment. In August 2006, Marble entered into two separate contracts for work on building 9 of the complex. As with prior contracts, Weston Investment was identified as the owner.  The contracts were signed by an officer of Weston Investment, John Genoni. A lien issue arose between Marble and Weston Investment.

Marble performed under the contracts and in 2008 filed claims of lien against various units in building 9. Genoni filed notices of contest of lien on behalf of the two corporations identified as owners, Weston Investment and Weston Real Estate Development, LLC (“Weston Development”). Marble filed a complaint for breach of contract and to foreclose the mechanic’s liens on building 9’s individual units. Weston Development was the owner of the units at the time the suit was filed.

A jury awarded Marble over $100,000 in damages against Weston Investment on the contract claims. The circuit judge dismissed the lien claims against Weston Development because Marble had not served a notice to owner on Weston Development pursuant to Florida Statute §713.06.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the final judgment of dismissal and remanded for the entry of a mechanic lien foreclosure judgment against Weston Development. It found Marble was in privity with Weston Investment at the time work commenced. Weston Investment signed two contracts identifying itself as an owner, similar to the way Marble had completed renovations on the previous buildings. Therefore, Marble was not required to file a §713.06(2)(a) notice to owner after it commenced work on building 9. Weston Investment could not trigger a duty on Marble to file a notice to owner by transferring ownership of the condominium units to a related corporation, Weston Development.

Genoni signed the original contracts on behalf of Weston Investment and filed notices of contest on behalf of both corporations. This indicated that the corporations are related. The valid claims of a contractor should not be frustrated by allowing corporate owners to play a shell game. In Boux v. East Hillsborough Apartments, Inc., 218 So. 2d 202 (Fla. 2d DCA 1969), failure to file a notice to owner was not fatal to the lien claim against the corporate owner because the same husband and wife were officers of both the owner-corporation and the contractor-corporation.