5th Circuit: Mississippi's Stop-Notice Statute Is Unconstitutional


In Noatex Corp v. King Construction of Houston, LLC, Case No. 12-60385 (5th Cir. Oct. 10, 2013), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited ruling on the constitutionality of Mississippi's Stop-Notice statute, Miss. Code Ann. Section 85-7-181. The Stop-Notice statute allowed unpaid subcontractors or materialmen to bind money in the hands of the project owner, thereby preventing those funds from being disbursed to the non-paying prime contractor. The Stop-Notice statute was a primary protection for construction subcontractors and suppliers in Mississippi.

The Fifth Circuit upheld the decision of the District Court of the Northern District of Mississippi, and ruled that the statute as written did not contain sufficient procedural safeguards, and thus violated the Constitution's guarantee of due process for the taking of property. Specifically, the Fifth Circuit held that the Stop-Notice statute, which required that a contractor's money be held by the owner once the owner received a written notice from an unpaid subcontractor, was an unconstitutional taking without due process because it (1) did not provide for any notice or hearing prior to the binding of the funds, (2) did not require a posting of any bond by the subcontractor, (3) did not require any showing of exigent circumstances, and (4) did not require the subcontractor to submit an affidavit or other writing setting forth the factual background of the dispute and swearing to its authenticity. Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit held that the Stop-Notice statute was unconstitutional and no longer valid.

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