If you keep up with construction industry news in Washington or are a reader of this blog, you’ve likely heard about the controversial Washington mechanics lien case climbing through the courts, Williams v. Athletics Field. We’ve written about it there five or six times, explaining the history of the decision and how it could impact lien claims in the state.
Last year, the Washington Supreme Court accepted the decision for review, and the matter was orally argued on June 14, 2011. You can watch the oral argument at this link, or in the video embedded below:
This case is interesting because a mechanics lien was invalidated even though it used the same wording and form provided by the statute. There is a conflict between the provided form and some other terminology within the law stating the verification must be in conformance with the state’s notary statutes.
When counsel for Athletics Field was making his presentation,the justices continually interrupted him questioning why the lien should stand when the acknowledgement is not in conformance with the notary statutes. Justin Wiggins, for example, asks pointedly “If the statutory form was not an issue, do you think the acknowledgement was acceptable?” Another justice appeared concerned that the person who ultimately signed the lien (an employee of a lien preparation company) did not fully identify herself or explain her relationship to the claimant.
An underlying issue with this case that I think is very important but which has not been put front and center by the court and parties thus far is whether the lien statutes are subject to strict or liberal interpretation. There is a conflict in the lien laws with respect to this issue as well, and the 1st District Court of Appeals have subscribed to liberal interpretation of liens, while the 2nd District, from where this Williams v. Athlethic Field decision arises, have subscribed to the opposite. I discuss this in the blog post: Bill Dies That Would Offset Controversial Williams v. Athletic Field Decision.