Spartan Asphalt Paving Co. v. Grand Ledge Mobile Home Park, s. 58978

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Citation253 N.W.2d 646,400 Mich. 184
Docket NumberNos. 58978,59067,s. 58978
PartiesSPARTAN ASPHALT PAVING COMPANY, a Michigan Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. GRAND LEDGE MOBILE HOME PARK, a Michigan Limited Partnership, and Jack R. Courshan, Nominee of First Mortgage Investors, a Massachusetts Business Trust, Defendants-Appellees and Cross-Appellants, and Michigan National Bank Oakland, a National Banking Association, Defendant- Appellee. HODGKISS & DOUMA, INC., a Michigan Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. WOODWARD DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, a Michigan Corporation, Union Lake Associates, a partnership consisting of E. David Auer, Jack J. Surnow and Roy J. McGlothin, and Trustees of Citizens Mortgage Investment Trust, a Massachusetts Business Trust, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date02 June 1977

James L. Winckler, Lansing, for plaintiff in No. 58978.

Vittorio E. Porco, Lansing, for defendant in No. 58978.

James Burren Brown, Lansing, for plaintiff in No. 59067.

Harry Calcutt, Traverse City, Richard A. Kay, Grand Rapids, Peter M. Alter, Detroit, James Stephen, II, Traverse City, for defendants in No. 59067.

PER CURIAM.

The issue common to these cases is whether paving improvements are subject to the mechanics' lien statute. M.C.L.A. § 570.1; M.S.A. § 26.281. We hold that they are.

Plaintiff Spartan Asphalt Paving Company did paving work for the general contractor of a mobile home park. When the general contractor failed to pay, plaintiff filed a several-count complaint against defendant Grand Ledge Mobile Home Park, a limited partnership that owns property on which the mobile home park has been constructed. The first count of the complaint was based on the mechanics' lien statute, the second on quantum meruit, and the third on equitable lien. Plaintiff appealed following the trial judge's grant of the defendant's motion for summary judgment on all three counts. The Court of Appeals "reluctantly" concluded that the paving work plaintiff had performed is not covered by the mechanics' lien statute. 71 Mich.App. 177, 186, 247 N.W.2d 589 (1976).

Plaintiff Hodgkiss & Douma is an asphalt paving company that constructed a parking area for the general contractor of a shopping center owned by the defendants. When the general contractor failed to pay, plaintiff sought to foreclose a mechanics' lien on the premises for the work done. The trial judge ruled that the mechanics' lien statute did not apply to parking lots and related areas. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 70 Mich.App. 298, 245 N.W.2d 725 (1976).

Plaintiffs lost in the courts below largely because of (1) our decision in Bezold v. Beach Development Co., 259 Mich. 693, 695, 244 N.W. 204 (1932); and (2) the line of cases holding that the mechanics' lien statute must be strictly interpreted "until the lien attaches," only thereafter to be liberally interpreted. See, e. g., Smalley v. Northwestern Terra-Cotta Co., 113 Mich. 141, 148, 71 N.W. 466 (1897).

The premier rule of statutory construction is to discover and give effect to the intent of the Legislature. Moore v. Department of Military Affairs, 398 Mich. 324, 327, 247 N.W.2d 801 (1976). Extracting the Legislature's intent from the tangle of words and clauses that comprises the mechanics' lien statute is difficult and tedious. The following quotation represents only about one-third of the statute's first sentence:

"Every person who shall, in pursuance of any contract, express or implied, written or unwritten, existing between himself as contractor, and the owner, part owner or lessee of any interest in real estate, build, alter, improve, repair, erect, ornament or put in, survey or plat any lot or parcel of land, or portion thereof, or engineer or design any sewers, water lines, roads, streets, highways, sidewalks, or prepare and furnish pursuant to such contract to such owner, part owner or lessee of any interest in real estate any survey, plat, plat of survey or design or engineering plan, or plans, for the improvement of any lot or parcel of land not exceeding one-quarter section of land, or who shall furnish any labor or materials in or for building, altering, improving, repairing, erecting, ornamenting or putting in any house, swimming pool, building, machinery, wharf or structure, or who shall excavate, or build in whole, or in part, any foundation, cellar or basement for any such house, swimming pool, building, structure or wharf, or shall build or repair any sidewalks, sewers, sewage disposal equipment, water lines and pumping equipment or wells or shall furnish any materials therefor, or shall furnish any nursery stock, or labor in connection therewith for any property, or shall rent or lease equipment in connection therewith for any property, and every person who shall be subcontractor, laborer, or material man, perform any labor or furnish materials or shall rent or lease equipment to such original or principal contractor, or any subcontractor, in carrying forward or completing any such contract, shall have a lien therefor upon such house, swimming pool, building, machinery, wharf, walk or walks, wells, sewers, sewage disposal equipment, water lines and pumping equipment, foundation, cellar or basement, and other structures, and its appurtenances, . . ." M.C.L.A. § 570.1; M.S.A. § 26.281 (emphasis supplied)

For our purposes here, the statute appears to give a "lien" on a "house (or) building" to subcontractors who may "perform any labor or furnish materials . . . in carrying forward or completing any . . . contract" whose object is to "improve . . . any lot or parcel of land, . . ."

In determining whether plaintiff's paving work is encompassed by the foregoing statutory language, we are mindful of the Legislature's directive that the mechanics' lien statute, because of its remedial nature, must be construed liberally to carry out its intended purpose of benefiting and protecting subcontractors, materialmen and laborers:

"This act is hereby declared to be a remedial stat...

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    ...impels us to reject the dissent's “crabbed” interpretation of the statute.19 Spartan Asphalt Paving Co. v. Grand Ledge Mobile Home Park, 400 Mich. 184, 188, 253 N.W.2d 646 (1977).20 Additionally, the statute provides that a court may allow reasonable attorney fees to a prevailing defendant ......
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