WA Legal Roundup - Washington Supreme Court
Woohoo! A milestone! The first new opinion to grace the new site! I'm a little excited.
I love it when the title of a case immediately makes you think of an Agatha Christie novel. Death and intrigue on ice. Did it involve a love affair between an ice skating couple that turned sour when the rink manager became involved? Not quite.
See, the Haselwoods lend money to BIA to construct an ice arena on land owned by the City. BIA secured the loan with the land the ice rink would be on, but which they didn't actually own (oops), as well as the improvements on the land. Starting to sound like a bar question yet? The Haselwoods recorded. There, now its a bar question.
RV cleared the site, along with adding drainage and some pipes and paving. BIA changed up the scope, which increased the costs. BIA refused to pay and RV filed a mechanic's lien. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking what I'm thinking. Mechanic's lien? Anyhow, the mechanics lien was put into place before the Haselwoods recorded.
Side note: Really? Throw this in after you tell us the Haselwoods recorded? What kind of bar question is this? How about we just list things chronologically. "RV delivered equipment to the site. Due to non-payment by BIA, RV filed a mechanics lien, after which the Haselwoods recorded their security interest." Maybe? But, as my high school french teacher used to say, "Let us get back to our sheep."
The Haselwoods, of course, say that the land is public and not subject to a lien. They are right. BIA only owned the improvements, and RCW 60.04.061 (lien priority statute) only applies to things that you, you know, actually own yourself. In addition, you can't have a mechanic's lien on public land:
Washington courts have repeatedly held since 1931 public property cannot be subject to a mechanic's lien. Hall & Olswang v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 161 Wash. 38, 47, 296 P. 162 (1931); see Hewson Constr., Inc. v. Reintree Corp., 101 Wn.2d 819, 828-29, 685 P.2d 1062 (1984); 3A Indus., Inc. v. Turner Constr. Co., 71 Wn. App. 407, 411, 869 P.2d 65 (1993). RV has put forth no compelling reason to abandon this well-established principle, so we decline to do so. Since the underlying real property here is public land owned by the City, it is not subject to a lien.
However, RV does take priority over the Haselwoods as to improvements on the land.
Now here's the funny part. The Haselwoods were the appellants. The court affirmed the court of appeals in its entirety (the Haselwoods were trying to say that RV didn't have priority in improvements...a pretty weak argument). RV would thus be entitled to RAP 18.1 attorneys fees.
That is, if they would have requested them in their opening brief. Ooops.
The dissent would hold that, since the mechanics lien applies to parcels of land, and the deed of trust said that the improvements would remain the personal property of BIA for the duration of the underlying agreement between BIA and the Haselwoods, that RV doesn't fall within the mechanic's lien statute. My only problem with that analysis, RV was never a party to the agreement between BIA and the Haselswoods, and the improvements should carry an objective standard.