Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indiana Mechanics Lien Update

Like in Illinois, people performing work on buildings in Indiana can place a mechanics lien on the property on which the work was performed. Pursuant to that State's mechanics lien act, lienable work includes the erection, alteration, repair, or removal of a building, among other things.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently considered what qualifies as a "repair" under the statute. The case Midwest Biohazard Services, LLC v. Rodgers, 893 N.E.2d 1074 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), concerned the clean-up and removal of a decomposing body.

Apparently Mr. Rodgers, Sr. died in his home. His body was not discovered for several days. During that time, his body decomposed causing fluids to leak into the carpet, subfloor, and down into the basement. Mr. Rodgers, Jr. contracted with Midwest Biohazard Services ("Midwest") for the clean-up and removal of his father's decomposed body. After the work was complete, Mr. Rodgers, Jr. informed Midwest that he would not be paying them.

Midwest quickly recorded a mechanics lien and filed suit to foreclose. The trial court dismissed, finding that the services did not constitute a repair under the statute. On appeal, Midwest argued that it performed repairs, but Mr. Rodgers, Jr. argued that they performed only cleaning services.

The Appellate Court looked to the purpose of the act and to the definition of the work repair. Because that word is not defined in the act, it is given its plain and ordinary meaning, which includes restoring something to its original value. The Court noted that a home free of biohazard contaminants was worth much more than a home that was full of biohazard contaminants, so the house had been repaired by Midwest and they were entitled to their lien.

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