Construction Law Blog
While the issue seems minor and a mere technicality on its face, it posed a significant problem across the Commonwealth because a customary practice is to file the complaint at the same docket as the lien claim to save the client from paying an additional filing fee and to confine the entire case record to a single docket. The lower courts in this case, however, held that this practice was improper and warranted dismissing the mechanics’ lien complaint. This decision came as a surprise to many construction law practitioners. Although dismissal in many instances would just lead to the filing of the complaint at a different docket, it would prove fatal to the mechanics’ lien claim if the two-year period for filing a complaint for judgment on the mechanics’ lien claim, 49 P.S. 1701(b), had passed prior to the dismissal.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court avoided this potentially significant procedural dilemma when it reversed the lower court’s order, holding that neither the Pennsylvania Mechanics’ Lien Law nor Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 1651–1661 related to mechanics’ lien actions require filing a complaint for judgment on a mechanics’ lien claim at a separate docket number than the mechanics’ lien claim. Specifically, the Court stated “we conclude there is no support for the proposition that because actions upon mechanics’ liens are comprised of two separate phases it follows that [the Lien Claimant’s] claims and its subsequent actions to obtain judgment upon them must have been entered at separate dockets, maintained in separate files, and identified with separate court terms and numbers.”