“It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.” Maybe that is exactly why people become so frustrated with the legal system, but that is justice. If we went off of trust or honor instead of cold hard facts, imagine the amount of manipulation and deceit would exist in the world. Same applies for mechanics liens. Keeping organized records of the work you have performed and the money you are owed are EXTREMELY important in the construction industry. Rhode Island courts told a masonry company just that.
The Case Background
Construction in this case was done in two phases: one to construct a new residence and the other to do some additional on-site construction. Salvati Masonry, Inc. (Salvati) was a subcontractor for Pariseault Builders, Inc. (Pariseault). Pariseault was required by its contract with the owners, the Andreozzis, to perform landscaping and associated hardscape in the second phase of construction. The second phase was the primary focus of this case.
The way the contracts were set up was that Pariseault was the general contractor on the project and expected to complete all work at the residence. Salvati would receive periodic payments from Pariseault as a masonry subcontractor. The amount of these payments were identified in the original bid. As of winter 2013, it had been agreed upon that Pariseault would withdraw as general contractor and Salvati would finish its work working directly for the Andreozzis. Salvati was suppose to finish the work agreed to in the subcontract along with additional work. That winter, Salvati filed a mechanics lien claim for “unpaid work.”
The Rhode Island court, in A. Salvati Masonry, Inc. v. Andreozzi, C.A. Nos. KM-2013-1278, KC-2014-0773, denied and dismissed the mechanics lien claim. There were two issues that were deadly to this mechanics lien claim: (1) the amount due for the”unpaid work” outside of the original contract was not stipulated by either side and (2) a lien release was signed and dated February 1, 2013. As a matter of fact, Salvati also had a breach of contract claim that failed along with the mechanics lien claim because there was no proof of an agreement for additional work. Therefore, the court decided
As Salvati failed to sufficiently establish what work was done for Mr. Andreozzi outside of the subcontract, he has not met his burden of proof that would entitle him to judgment for breach of contract. Moreover, as Salvati failed to demonstrate that payments for any work performed remain due and owing, he has not met his burden to establish a judgment in his favor for a mechanics lien.
There are two “legal” mandates that make sense for every business. Get it in writing, and read everything and make sure you understand it before you sign it. Those are two lessons Salvati could have greatly benefited from. Any work done on a project should be recorded, whether through contract, invoice, or some sort of written instrument. Also, lien releases should always be reviewed before signed. Many times, subcontractors and other parties sign these waivers and releases without fully understanding the implications. Do not be burned and give up your lien rights without understanding it or getting paid. Understand your rights and don’t go unpaid.