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Last week, the Supreme Court of New York (New York County) invalidated a mechanics lien in an unpublished decision because the document just barely misidentified the claimant. It is a risk we warned about and called potentially “harsh” last year when writing about a similar California case, although the court in that case forgave the claimant’s error and the lien survived: California Court Forgives Mechanics Lien Incorrect Identification of Claimant. 

The mechanics lien claimant in A. & L. Construction Corp. v. East Harlem Developers, LLC wasn’t so lucky. Their mechanics lien was invalided by the court for identifying the claimant as “A&L Construction Corp” instead of “A. & L. Construction Corp.”

Stating Your Name Correctly In A New York Mechanics Lien Is Important

It’s no secret that filing a mechanics lien claim in New York or any other state is subject to many technicalities. It is easy to make an error. It may seem unlikely that you’d make an error stating your own name, but this is an essential and too frequently overlooked component of your claim. The formal name of the lien claimant is very important.

The A. & L. Construction Corp case makes this excruciatingly clear. Take a look at the minuscule difference between the name used in the lien claim and the formal name of the company:

Used in Lien:  A&L Construction Corp.
Formal Name:  A. & L. Construction Corp.

It seems terribly unfair, but the court discharged the mechanics lien for the sole reason that the lienor’s name was written incorrectly. There was absolutely nothing else wrong or invalid about the lien claim. A tiny and honest mistake proved fatal.

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Excuses Rejected By The Court, But Decision Limited

This naming mistake can occur quite easily. Most mechanics lien claims across the country are not filed by the claimants themselves, but are instead filed by a construction attorney or lien service. It’s easy to imagine a circumstance where “A. & L.” can get misheard or transmitted as “A&L.”  Even the company probably refers to itself simply as “A&L” as a matter of routine.

In fact, that was the excuse offered by the claimant in the case, blaming the mistake as “a scrivener’s error,” and arguing that “such minor error does not affect its enforceability as a valid and binding contract” or the lien.

The bad news for claimants is that, based on this decision, any “scrivener’s errors” will need proof, and that even the tiniest and most obvious mistakes can be crippling.  The claimant’s argument is very good, and is partially why the California court last year upheld a claim that made a similar mistake. Perhaps the claimant overestimated its chances in this hearing and didn’t properly prepare, or maybe the court got the issue completely wrong, but for whatever reason the court notes in the decision that the claimant “provides no affidavit or other evidence to support the contention [that it was a scrivener’s error.”

It probably shouldn’t have required an affidavit to show that it was an actual “scrivener’s error” to save this lien, but nevertheless, the court discharged the lien with that note.

The bad news for claimants is that, based on this decision, any “scrivener’s errors” will need proof, and that even the tiniest and most obvious mistakes can be crippling. The good news is that this decision can be easily distinguished by furnishing an affidavit demonstrating that the typographical error was, in fact, a typographical error.

How To Make Sure Your Name Is Correct On Your Mechanics Lien

This is a good time to offer some information about getting your name correct on your mechanics lien claim.

First, you should own the name that you use. In this particular case,  “A. & L. Construction Corp” probably refers to itself constantly as “A&L.”  Accordingly, it should own the trade name “A&L Construction Corp.”  That would have probably deflated the entire argument against the lien, and it will save the company technical legal hassles elsewhere.

Second, when communicating with lawyers, lien services, or anyone who or anything that will be creating a form for you which will have any filing requirement whatsoever, be very clear to that party or technology about what your company’s actual registered and formal name is. You may not use this name all the time, but that is your name.  Down to the punctuation marks, spaces, capital letters, and all.

Third, if you are using Levelset , it is very important to verify that your company name is properly spelled and provided in your User Settings.  See here:

If you have multiple locations or brands, you can designate alternative or additional names.

Understand that every time you order a transaction or document through Levelset, the name of your company as input into the system will be printed on the document.