Hough v. Zehrner

Decision Date31 October 1973
Docket NumberNo. 3--872A51,3--872A51
PartiesRobert HOUGH, d/b/a Hough Enterprises, Appellant (Plaintiff Below), v. John ZEHRNER, a/k/a John Zehner, et al., Appellees (Defendants Below).
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Richard P. Komyatte, Daniel L. Freeland, Efron, Efron & Komyatte, Hammond, for appellant.

William G. Conover, Valparaiso, for appellees.

STATON, Judge.

I. STATEMENT ON THE APPEAL

Hough delivered 1,944.6 tons of crushed stone to Zehrner's junk and salvage yard where a new commercial garage for trucks was being constructed. The crushed stone was used for the driveway and parking area around the commercial garage where the muddy condition of the ground would not support commercial truck travel. When Hough was unable to obtain payment for the delivered crushed stone, he filed a mechanic's lien under I.C.1971, 32--8--3--1; Ind.Stat.Ann. § 43--701 (Burns 1965). His foreclosure suit resulted in a judgment against him. The trial court concluded that Hough's lien was not within the scope of the statute. Hough filed his motion to correct errors which presents this question on appeal:

Does the scope of the mechanic's lien statute encompass a materialman who delivers crushed stone for a driveway and parking area which is to be used in conjunction with a commercial garage being constructed?

Our opinion construes the above statute and concludes that such a materialman is entitled to a mechanic's lien. We reverse the trial court's judgment.

II. STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

Hough entered into an oral contract with Caprio and Phebus in October, 1968 to supply crushed stone which would be used in the construction of a driveway and parking facility at Zehrner's junk and salvage yard where a new commercial garage was being built. The first delivery of stone to Zehrner was on October 16, 1968, and the last load of crushed stone arrived on November 1, 1968. The total deliveries amounted to 1,944.6 tons of crushed stone for an agreed price of $2,916.90. Caprio and Phebus had a commitment to Zehrner for the delivery of the crushed stone. All parties knew of the agreement with Hough and the intended use of the crushed stone. When Hough was unable to receive payment from Caprio and Phebus, he filed his notice of claim for a mechanic's lien on December 30, 1968. The foreclosure action which commenced on June 17, 1968 resulted in a judgment against Hough. The trial court entered the following judgment:

'The Court having had this matter under advisement and being duly advised in the premises, now finds:

'That the crushed stone delivered by plaintiff to premises of defendant, John Zehrner a/k/a John Zehner, was used in the filling of holes on the land and in covering certain lands to make a parking and driving area for trucks. Said crushed stone was not used in the erection of any building or structure.

'The Indiana Supreme Court has often said that the mechanic's lien statutes are in derogation of the common law and must be strictly construed. This Court can find no authority in statute giving rise to a mechanic's lien in this cause.

'It is THEREFORE, ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED by the Court that the plaintiff take nothing by way of his complaint from the defendant, John Zehrner, a/k/a John Zehner, and John Zehner, and that said named defendants recover their costs herein.'

Hough timely filed his motion to correct errors which raises the question set forth below for our consideration on appeal.

III. STATEMENT OF THE ISSUE

The issue is one of statutory construction. I.C.1971, 32--8--3--1; Ind.Stat.Ann. § Does the scope of the mechanic's lien statute encompass a materialman who delivers crushed stone for a driveway and parking area which is to be used in conjunction with a commercial garage being constructed?

43--701 (Burns 1965). We will examine the statute to determine:

We conclude in our 'Statement on the Law' below that the scope of the statute does encompass such a materialman.

IV.

STATEMENT ON THE LAW

The statute here under consideration contains the following language:

'That contractors, subcontractors, mechanics, journeymen, laborers and all persons performing labor or furnishing materials or machinery for the erection, altering, repairing or removing any house, mill, manufactory, or other building, bridge, reservoir, systems of waterworks, or other structures, or for construction, altering, repairing, or removing any walk or sidewalk, whether such walk or sidewalk be on the land or bordering thereon, stile, well, drain, drainage ditch, sewer or cistern may have a lien separately or jointly upon the house, mill, manufactory or other building, bridge, reservoir, system of waterworks or other structure, sidewalk, walk, stile, well, drain, drainage ditch, sewer or cistern which they may have erected, altered, repaired, or removed or for which they may have furnished materials or machinery of any description, and, on the interest of the owner of the lot or parcel of land on which it stands or with which it is connected to the extent of the value of any labor done, material furnished or either; . . .'

This statute is in derogation of the common law and should be strictly construed as to its scope. Aetna Glass v. Mercury Builders, Inc. (1969), 145 Ind.App. 286, 250 N.E.2d 598. Any lien claimant under this statute has the burden of proof to establish that his claim is within the scope of the statute. Once this has been successfully accomplished, a liberal construction will be given the statute so that its purpose can be accomplished. Potter Manufacturing Co. v. A. B. Meyer & Co. (1909), 171 Ind. 513, 86 N.E. 837. The purpose of the statute was expressed by our Supreme Court in Moore-Mansfield Construction Co. v. Indianapolis, New Castle & Toledo Railway Co. (1913), 179 Ind. 356, 372, 101 N.E. 296, 302:

'The mechanics' lien laws of America, in general, reveal the underlying motive of justice and equity in dedicating, primarily, buildings and the land on which they are erected to the payment of the labor and materials incorporated, and which have given to them an increased value. The purpose is to promote justice and honesty, and to prevent the inequity of an owner enjoying the fruits of the labor and materials furnished by others, without recompense.'

See also Jackson v. Franklin & Son (1939), 107 Ind.App. 38, 23 N.E.2d 23.

Looking to the language in the statute which would be indicative of its scope, we extract the following:

'. . . persons . . . furnishing materials . . . for . . . other structures, or for construction (of) . . . any walk or sidewalk, whether such walk or sidewalk be on the land or bordering thereon, . . . or for which they may have furnished materials . . . of any description, and, on the interest of the owner of the lot or parcel of land on which it stands or with which it is connected to the extent of the value of any . . . material furnished . . ..'

It would be absurd to limit the scope of the statute to those items specifically and expressly mentioned. Marks v. State (1942), 220 Ind. 9, 40 N.E.2d 108. Descriptive materials are blatantly absent Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1970) defines 'other' as '. . . that which is remaining or additional; being the ones distinct from the one or those first mentioned or understood.' 'Structure' is defined as the '. . . action of building; construction,' giving the following example from T. W. Arnold: 'demolish any building, highway, road, railroad, excavation or other structure.' The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged ed. 1969) defines 'other' as '. . . additional or further; different or distinct from the one or ones mentioned or implied; . . .' The word 'structure' is defined as '. . . mode of building, construction, or organization; arrangement of parts, elements, or constituents; a pyramidial structure. . . .' It further defines 'structure' as '. . . anything composed of parts arranged together in some way; . . .' In McCormack v. Bertschinger (1925), 115 Or. 250, 237 P. 363 where it was contended '. . . that the labor and material which were furnished in the construction of the garage, driveway, walks, and retaining wall, and not in the construction of the house itself, were not lienable, . . .' since they were not structures, the Oregon Supreme Court held that a driveway was a structure even though it had not been specifically or expressly set forth in the statute. The Oregon Supreme Court applied the maxim of noscitur a sociis.

therefore, materials are inescapably bound with the nature of '. . . other structures.' These words should be given their ordinary and literal significance first....

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