The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that a Claim of Lien conforming to the sample form in the statute, even though the sample does not contain all the provisions required by the statute, is sufficient to make the claim valid. In Williams v. Athletic Field, Inc., issued on September 15, the Court took the opposite approach from the state Court of Appeals, which had invalidated a Claim of Lien because it lacked a proper acknowledgment required under the lien statute, RCW 60.04. In its decision reversing the appeals court and reinstating the Claim of Lien, the Court recognized that the statute is ambiguous with respect to the contents of and the persons authorized to acknowledge the validity of a lien claim, but chose to liberally construe the statute to achieve its intended purposes. While the Court’s ruling is a victory for pragmatism and substance over form, it also runs contrary to the oft-stated rule of strict construction of the lien statute and could raise questions about how other provisions in the statute will be construed in future cases.
In the case before the Court, Athletic Field had provided construction services to Williams for an estimated value of $420,000. Disputes arose between the parties and Williams refused to pay Athletic Field its full invoiced amounts. Athletic Field retained a lien filing service, LienData USA, Inc. (“LienData”), to prepare and file a Claim of Lien for the unpaid balance.
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