Friday, January 27, 2012

Lien Law Online eLert for 1/26/2012 - Washington

January 26, 2012

In a recent case, Williams v. Athletic Field, Inc., --- P.3d --- 2011 WL 4089927 (Wash. 2011), the Washington Supreme Court reversed a 2010 Washington Court of Appeals decision that found that in order for a Claim of Lien to be valid, it must contain a proper acknowledgement pursuant to Washington’s Real Property & Conveyance Act (RCW 64.08). The acknowledgement required under RCW 64.08 identifies specific language to be used and acknowledged by a notary, which varies depending on whether the claimant is an individual or a corporation. The decision of the Washington Supreme Court found that the form of lien provided in the lien statute itself (RCW 60.04.091(2)), although ambiguous, is sufficient to establish a valid Claim of Lien even if the document is not acknowledged pursuant to RCW 64.08.

The issue that the Washington Supreme Court resolved arose in the situation where a corporate claimant relies on the form of lien provided in the lien statute alone (relied on by most claimants), which does not satisfy the specific language requirements for acknowledgement under RCW 64.08. Nonetheless, 60.04.091(2) states, in relevant part, “a claim of lien substantially in the following form shall be sufficient.” However, RCW 60.04.091(2) also states, in relevant part, that the Claim of Lien “shall be acknowledged pursuant to RCW 60.08. The court recognized that the statute was ambiguous, as it could either be interpreted as 1) creating an exemption to the acknowledgement requirement, or 2) requiring the claimant to append a certificate of acknowledgment to comply with RCW 64.08. Given this ambiguity, the court liberally construed the statute as to allow the form of lien provided in RCW 60.04.091(2), standing alone, to be sufficient to establish a valid Claim of Lien.

Accordingly, the Washington Supreme Court’s decision establishes that corporations may rely on the Claim of Lien form provided by the lien statute. Although the decision did not specifically address whether the same rules apply to individuals filing a Claim of Lien, as RCW 64.08 has separate requirements for acknowledgement by individuals, it seems likely a court would use a similar analysis to validate the sample form in the context of individuals as well. This may be a question for another day, however, and prudent practice for individuals would be to follow the sample form provided by RCW 42.44.100(1) for purposes of acknowledgement, in addition to the sample form provided in the lien statute.

Jason R. Wandler, Esquire (Contributing Author)

Oles, Morrison, Rinker & Baker

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