Construction professionals at work

A footnote in a July 2012 Connecticut Court of Appeals decision presents an interesting issue about calculating a mechanics lien deadline.  This task, as readers of the blog will know, is not as easy as it seems.

Calculating a mechanics lien deadline usually requires the claimant to select its last date of furnishing labor or materials to a project.  In many states, however, punchlist and warranty work is not included. So the claimant must select the last date substantive work was performed.

In Constr. Ken-Nection Inc. v. Cipriano, a Connecticut trial court ruled that a mechanics lien claim would not be timely in the state if the last furnishing was provided after a  month or a month and a half delay, because such work would not represent the “last day of substantial completion within the terms of the written or oral contract.”

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It is not too unusual for a court to exclude furnishing dates if a claimant came back to the property exclusively for the purpose of trying to reset its mechanics lien claim period. However, that was not the case in Cipriano, where the work was actually substantive work and not exclusively performed to extend the lien deadline.  It was just done a month and a half later than the bulk of the work.

Unfortunately for the mechanics lien law in Connecticut, the issue remains unresolved because the appeals court affirmed the decision on other grounds making that particular issue moot. The appeals court recognized that the issue remains outstanding in footnote 15 of their opinion:

Because we conclude that the court’s finding that any work purportedly done on September 21 and 22 was not within the contract is not clearly erroneous, we need not review the court’s finding in the alternative that “even if that work [purportedly done on September 21 and/or September 22, 2006] was within the contract, it was done after an approximately one and one-half month delay. As a result, those dates do not represent the last day of substantial completion within the terms of the written or oral contract.”

What are Connecticut mechanics lien claimants to do?  Only time will tell.