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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
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1. Does California law impose civil liability for wrongful

Customer Question

1. Does California law impose civil liability for wrongful filing of a mechanic's lien? 2. If so, how do you prove, or what constitute's, wrongful filing? Would it suffice to show that the contractor never had any plan to file an action to enforce the lien?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 years ago.
Hi,

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

Unfortunately, CA law does not allow civil liability for damages for the wrongful filing of a lien. If the lien should not have been filed, the court can order it dissolved, but there is no monetary compensation involved.

If the contractor has a valid claim to the money, he can place the lien, even if he doesn't plan to file an action to enforce it. In that situation, when the homeowner goes to sell the property, the contractor would get paid out of the proceeds of the sale. That's allowed. So, the contractor may decide it's not worth the expense going to court, if he has reason to believe the property will be sold soon.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

First, I'm surely going to accept your answer. By the way, who'd you clerk for?

 

If I may continue (for potential bonus), what if he has no valid claim to the money? I assume there's always at least some debatability on that point, which would mean he can, unfortunately for me, probably place the lien, even without any plans to enforce it, right?

 

Or do I have an argument here? I.e., "he doesn't have a valid claim to the money, as I can demonstrate by showing he did a terrible job the first time around -- which, along with some other factors -- means his claim wasn't 'valid'? So when he placed an invalid lien, without plans to enforce it, he was just abusing process." Any good?

 

If that's an argument at all, is that my only one? I.d., do I have any other possible way to go about this? Do you think I'm probably out of luck?

 

Or, might a different argument work -- i.e.: "He had no reason whatsoever to believe the property would be sold ever, let alone soon, so he didn't file the lien anticipating full payment from a sale. Rather, he did it just to harrass me -- which is abuse of process."

 

Also, will a small claims court judge understand all this? Is this basic law around here? I'm inclined to assume a judge there doesn't know squat, like the one I encountered a while back in traffic court. Then again, I guess he (or she) doesn't have to give us a ruling on the spot, so he could go back and look it all up (if he has the energy).

 

By the way, if I punch "Accept," can I keep this dialogue going, or will I lose you forever (like my beloved childhood dog)?

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 years ago.
Massachusetts uses a circuit court system, so all of the judges and clerks rotate every three months, and you could work for two judges at a time, so I actually clerked for six or seven of them. It's not like other states, where there's just one judge that you work with.

If he never had any valid claim to the money, and he just woke up one morning and decided to put a lien on your house because he doesn't like the color, then you could claim abuse of process against him. But, if the claim is valid, and he just doesn't plan to enforce the lien, you wouldn't have a cause of action for that. In an abuse of process case, you would have to prove damages, so that's a potential problem. A small claims judge would know basic things like abuse of process, because those types of claims come up frequently. They usually review the complaint before the trial, so they can take a moment to look up any questions, but you're right - they can also take a recess and go back to do the research, if necessary.

If you click Accept, you can keep the question going. Even if the thread got closed, you would be allowed to reopen it and continue talking to me.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 20993
Experience: JA Mentor
Lucy, Esq. and 3 other Real Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

 

My situation is between the two you describe: he IS a contractor, and he DID do work on the house, so he has a more than colorable argument that his lien is a good one, right? I mean, it's not like he has never been there or met me. On the other hand, I believe I can show the lien is INVALID. Does that give me any room for claiming damages? (Probably not.)

 

Note that he did do something else that is abusive, i.e., he wrote the D.C. Bar Association and claimed I was falsely practicing law without a license -- which is absurd. (I was a member of that bar about 200 years ago.) That letter was a plainly (I think) vengeful move. It had nothing to do with this garage door. And the D.C. Bar has shown no evidence of concern at all, since I wrote and told them it was ridiculous.

 

Do you see any room for an argument either based on that alone, or based on that plus the other matter involving the lien? I.e., couldn't I say, "Look, this guy is clearly after me. Can't I get some penalties to make him stop?"

 

Also, could I just go in and assert a general argument of, "He shouldn't have done it, it was a waste of my time and the court's time, and he should be required to compensate me"? Note that I paid him about $3,000 out of his bill for $3,500, but he never cashed the check. So if he wins on the lien claim, he'll get the full $3,500, I think. But a court could call it a draw and award nothing to either side -- which would really give me a $3,000 victory.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 years ago.
I don't think you would have room for claiming damages on the lien under the circumstances.

You could try suing for harassment, which includes repeated actions (such as following you, making harassing telephone calls, or sending harassing emails) that seriously alarm, annoy, or harass you, and that serve no legitimate purpose and causes you to be extremely emotionally upset (distressed). Two incidents probably aren't enough to show a pattern. But, if he does anything else, then you might be able to show a pattern and recover that way.

Unfortunately, the law generally lets people be annoying and jerky, as long as they aren't violating some right you have. So, under these circumstances, the waste of time argument is part of the harassment argument.

Also, if you're talking about wasting your time by making you go to court (and I don't know if that's at all part of this), the law doesn't allow compensation. Back in the 1700s in England we did that, but, now, the courts don't want to discourage, say, someone who works at McDonald's from pursuing a valid claim against a neurosurgeon out of fear he'll have to pay thousands of dollars for the defendant's time in court.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 20993
Experience: JA Mentor
Lucy, Esq. and 3 other Real Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you

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Lucy, Esq.
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