No Suit for You! N.C. Lien Action Properly Dismissed Where "Owner" Owned Nothing When Work Began


In a controversial 2-1 decision released on October 2, 2012, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ("COA") affirmed a trial court's dismissal of a mechanic's lien claim asserted by contractors who did not have a contract with the "Owner" of the improved real property as of the date of first furnishing – even though the "Owner" ultimately acquired title to the land during the course of the contractors' performance.

The John Conner Construction, Inc. v. Grandfather Holding Co., Inc. decision is significant to the construction industry because it limits the reach of the term "Owner" as that term is used in North Carolina's mechanic's lien statutes. Since there was one dissenting vote from the three-judge panel, however, the case is likely to be reviewed by the N.C. Supreme Court, which could elect to expand who qualifies as an "Owner" for the purposes of the lien law.

An exploration of the facts, holding, dissent and practical implications of the John Conner Construction decision follows:

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