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Riley v. Durfey

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

June 16, 1911

WILLIAM F. RILEY, Appellant,
v.
WILLIAM J. DURFEY and Others, Respondents.

Page 584

APPEAL by the plaintiff, William F. Riley, from a judgment of the Supreme Court in favor of the defendants, entered in the office of the clerk of the county of Kings on the 29th day of October, 1910, upon the decision of the court rendered after a trial at the Kings County Special Term.

COUNSEL

Edmund T. Oldham, for the appellant.

Claude V. Pallister, for the respondent Staines, Bunn & Taber Company.

George E. Brower, for the respondent John S. Loomis Company.

Jerome H. Koehler [G. Sidney Leach with him on the brief], for the respondent Durhan.

WOODWARD, J.:

The plaintiff instituted the above-entitled action to foreclose a mechanic's lien. Patrick J. Egan was the general contractor and William J. Durfey and Lucretia D. Ash were the owners of the premises, the remaining parties defendant being lienors subsequent to the plaintiff. It was stipulated that the amount due from the owners was $825, 'and that the said sum of Eight hundred and twenty-five dollars is applicable to the payment of the Mechanic's Liens filed by the plaintiffs and the defendant lienors above named which may be adjudged valid,' etc. It was also 'conceded by all parties appearing on the trial of this action that the work, labor and services for which a claim against the defendant Patrick J. Egan, and an alleged lien

Page 585

filed by them respectively against the property of the owners, the defendants Durfey and Ash, was done and performed to the satisfaction of the owners and contractor,' so that it would appear from the stipulations that the question of the validity of the several liens was left open to the determination of the court as between the plaintiff and the several lienors. It was upon this theory that the court at Special Term acted, and this was the only question which was, by the stipulations, left open. The court has found that the lien filed by the plaintiff was invalid, and has directed the apportionment among the several defendant lienors, the plaintiff appealing.

The ground of the decision of the court against the lien of the plaintiff is that the notice of lien alleged in the alternative that 'The labor performed and to be performed, and the materials furnished and to be furnished, excavation for cellars and the furnishing of sand and gravel used in the erection of certain stores * * * Flatbush avenue, Brooklyn, and the agreed price and value thereof is Fifteen Hundred and eighty-six 56/100 dollars,' and that this failed to comply with the requirements of the law, as laid down in Finn v. Smith (186 N.Y. 465). There can be no serious question that if this was all that the notice contained it would be fatally defective. (Felgenhauer v. Haas, 123 A.D. 75, 77.) The notice, however, contained these additional averments: that 'The amount unpaid to the lienor for such labor and materials is Four hundred and Fifty-six 56/100 dollars,' and that the 'time when the first and last items of work were performed and materials furnished, is work began Oct. 29, 1908, ended March 31st, 1909.' There is not, as in Felgenhauer v. Haas (supra), any allegation that the work and materials were 'Actually used and employed in the erection of buildings,' etc. The most that can be spelled out of the averments of the complaint is that the 'labor performed and to be performed, and the materials furnished and to be furnished' are of the 'agreed price and value' of $1,586.56, and that the 'amount unpaid to the lienor for such labor and materials is' $456.56. There is not in the averment that 'the time when the first and last items of work were performed and materials furnished, is work began Oct. 29, 1908, ended March 31st, 1909,' any statement of the material

Page 586

fact that all of the work had been performed and all of the materials furnished, which went to make up the agreed value of $1,586.56. This, we apprehend, is the real requirement of the Lien Law (Consol. Laws, chap. 33 [Laws of 1909, chap. 38], § 9); that it shall state the fact to be that so much of labor has been performed, or so much of material has been furnished for the work in question, and that a certain amount remains unpaid, and while the statute is to be liberally construed (Id. § 23), where there is a failure to set out these facts in plain language, or by fair and necessary inference, the notice of lien is fatally defective, and gives rise to no cause of action to foreclose the lien. It is probably true that a statement that work and materials to a given amount had been performed and supplied would answer the requirements, without a separation of the items, but we find no authority which holds that where there is a failure to show that the materials and labor have been supplied, a lien attaches. The statute contemplates that work and materials may be furnished subsequent to the filing of the lien. (Id. art. 2.) It is proper, therefore, that the notice should contain the whole amount of the contract, the agreed price, the proportion which has been performed, the portion still to be performed, the amount which has been earned, the sum which has been paid on account, the amount due and unpaid when the notice was filed, and the amount which will be due when the contract is wholly completed. ( Hurley v. Tucker,128 A.D. 580, 585.) In the case now under consideration the plaintiff states the full amount of his contract; states that 'work began Oct. 29, 1908, ended March 31st, 1909,' but he nowhere states that all of the work and materials have been furnished; he simply says that 'the amount unpaid to the lienor for such labor and materials is' $456.56, but this refers to ...


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