Construction Law Update: What’s In A Name?

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“What’s in a name?” This was the question posed in a recent case decided by the California Court of Appeals involving a contractor doing business under the fictitious business name “Clark Heating and Air Conditioning” but who signed two contracts under the name “Clark Air Conditioning & Heating.” Note the transposed names “Heating” and “Air Conditioning” and the use of the ampersand “&” and the non-ampersand “and.”

In Ball v. Steadfast-BLK, LLC, 196 Cal.App.4th 694 (June 14, 2011), David E. Ball, a sole proprietor, held a contractor’s license issued by the California Contractors State License Board (“CSLB”) under the fictitious name “Clark Heating and Air Conditioning.” However, Mr. Ball entered into two contracts under the name “Clark Air Conditioning & Heating.” When Mr. Ball was not paid, he recorded a mechanic’s lien for the work performed and filed a lawsuit to foreclose on the mechanic’s lien. Steadfast-BLK, LLC challenged Mr. Ball’s complaint on the ground that Mr. Ball was never licensed to do business in the name of “Clark Air Conditioning & Heating,” and that his complaint was therefore precluded as a matter of law under Business and Professions Code section 7031, which bars all actions that seek compensation for work in which a contractor’s license is required. The trial court agreed and dismissed Mr. Ball’s complaint.

The California Court of Appeals for the Third District, however, disagreed...

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