Wadsworth Homes, Inc. v. Woodridge Corp., 23587

Citation358 S.W.2d 288
Decision Date04 June 1962
Docket NumberNo. 23587,23587
PartiesWADSWORTH HOMES, INC., a corporation, Respondent, v. The WOODRIDGE CORPORATION, a corporation, Defendant, Dan Boyle, Trustee; Passumpsic Savings Bank and Azimuth, Inc., Appellants.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

Milton C. Clarke, Roy P. Swanson, Swanson, Midgley, Jones, Blackmar & Eager, Kansas City, Hale, Coleberd, Kincaid & Waters, Liberty, for appellants.

James A. Moore, Laird P. Bowman, Kansas City, Gage, Hodges, Moore, Park & Kreamer, Kansas City, for respondent.

HUNTER, Presiding Judge.

This is a suit in equity by plaintiff-respondent, Wadsworth Homes, Inc., to adjudicate and enforce a lien for materials furnished to nonappealing defendant, the Woodridge Corporation, for the erection of a residence upon certain real estate in Clay County, Missouri.

The real estate was subsequently (but prior to the filing of respondent's mechanics' lien statement) acquired from The Woodridge Corporation by appellant, Azimuth, Inc., which concurrently mortgaged it to Dan Boyle, Trustee for City-Wide Mortgage Company, which latter corporation in turn and prior to the filing of respondent's mechanics' lien statement, assigned the note and deed of trust to appellant Passumpsic Savings Bank.

Most of the pertinent facts were stipulated, and plaintiff provided supplementary evidence. The trial court held that a valid lien was established and entered judgment for $186.41, plus interest, and a lien declared superior to the rights of appellants. This appeal followed.

The Woodridge Corporation was a developer and builder of residences. Wadsworth Homes, Inc., was a manufacturer and seller of prefabricated homes of various designs and was well known as such in the building trades industry and to the general public.

Prior to December 21, 1959, the Woodridge Corporation obtained a conditional commitment for FHA loan guaranty for a number of houses to be erected in a subdivision where the property in question is located. The commitment was applied for under the provisions of Section 203(i) of the National Housing Act, Title 12, #1709(i) U.S.C.A., and the housing development in the subdivision is referred to by the parties as a '203(i) project' and the houses as '203(i) houses'.

The term '203(i) houses' has a well understood meaning among builders, mortgage lenders and others connected with residential construction and lending. They are known to be a standard type of house constructed under rigid requirements of the FHA relating to minimum standards of construction, minimum square feet of space and like specifications, as shown by FHA regulations.

At the time of the commencement of the development of the subdivision the Woodridge Corporation arranged to purchase from Wadsworth Homes, Inc., prefabricated houses for the subdivision. Wadsworth Homes, Inc., prepared and supplied plans for such houses. The plans called for standard houses differing only in trim detail on the exterior front and the location of the kitchen on the left-hand or right-hand side of the houses. Wadsworth Homes, Inc., was to supply the materials for the particular house on order of the Woodridge Corporation as the latter completed the foundations. Such materials for each prefabricated house were to be completed except for plumbing, heating and wiring, and were to be supplied by Wadsworth Homes, Inc., on the site in three separate parts.

On May 29, 1959, upon notification by the Woodridge Corporation that it was desired, under Wadsworth Homes, Inc., Order No. 59-1014 the first shipment was made, and paid for in the sum of $307.65. On June 12, 1959, in accordance with instructions from the Woodridge Corporation, the second shipment was made, and paid for in the sum of $1,760.68. Pursuant to instructions the third and final shipment was made on December 21, 1959, and the Woodridge Corporation was billed therefor in the sum of $186.41 but no payment for this final shipment was made. The sum $186.41 was the remaining amount due under the contract specifying a sales price of $2,254.74.

Within less than six months and on June 6, 1960, Wadsworth Homes, Inc., filed its mechanics' lien, the only questioned part of which reads:

'Invoice No. 6574:

Materials for Final Erection $186.41 [Plan Bel Rancho #3 K.L. (Truss Roof)]'

Appellants contend the trial court erred in declaring respondent to be entitled to a valid lien for the reason that respondent's lien statement does not describe the nature and quantity of the material supplied, nor give a just and true account as required by the lien statute. Appellants concede respondent furnished all the materials contracted for which were for the agreed price and of the reasonable value stated. They also admit that all of the contract price has been paid and properly credited, except for the sum of $186.41, which is still owing. They question only the technical adequacy of the lien account as contained in the lien statement.

Section 429.080 RSMo 1959, V.A.M.S. provides in part that to obtain a valid lien requires the timely filing with the circuit clerk of '* * * a just and true account of the demand due him or them after all just credits have been given * * *.'

While modern decisions recognize that the mechanics' lien statute, which gives to contractors, subcontractors, materialmen, and laborers a rather extraordinary remedy, is just in principle and should be liberally construed, the fact remains that there must be substantial compliance with the requirements of the statute in order for one to avail himself of its benefits.

It is also recognized in the cases that the legislative purpose of requiring the filing of the 'just and true account' is so that the landowners and others interested may learn from the lien statement what the lien claimant asserts he had furnished, thus permitting an investigation to be made to determine whether the materials actually went into the building; whether they were lienable items, and whether the amount charged is proper. Grace v. Nesbitt et al., 109 Mo. 9, 18 S.W. 1118; State ex rel. O'Malley v. Reynolds, 266 Mo. 595, 182 S.W. 743.

The cases clearly indicate that where a lien claimant is an original contractor and has made a lump sum contract with the landowner, his lien account may be stated in a lump sum and need not be itemized in order to be considered sufficient. The reason ordinarily given is that the landowner is bound by his contract and should be familiar with the items required for a compliance therewith. Mississippi Woodworking Company v. Maher, Mo.App., 273 S.W.2d 753; State ex rel. St. Francois County Building and Loan Ass'n v. Reynolds, 288 Mo. 522, 232 S.W. 1035.

In McCarthy Lumber & Const. Co. v. Kinder, 206 Mo.App. 287, 225 S.W. 1024, an action was brought by the original contractor to recover $960.19 as the balance due from defendants for material and lumber furnished in the erection of a dwelling and to establish a lien therefor. There, as here, the contention was made that the lien statement was fatally deficient for its failure to itemize the material and labor provided. The questioned portion of the lien statement read:

'Oct. 15/15. To contract for erection of residence as agreed, including the omission of fireplace, flue, and foundation for same $2,376 00

25. To enlarging basement as agreed 64 00.'

The St. Louis Court of Appeals ruled, loc. cit. 1026:

'(1) By reference to the terms of the contract it will be noted that the statement is as definite as the contract, and a lien statement which is as definite as the contract under which it is furnished is sufficient, and if a lumping price was agreed upon no other price could have been specified, so that the account would have been a just and true one. Grace v. Nesbitt, 109 Mo. 9, 18 S.W. 1118.

'(2) Defendants contend, however, that even though the price could be a lump price, yet the items going to make up the whole for which the lump sum is charged should be set out. But this court held, in Mahan v.Brinnell, 94 Mo.App. 165, 67 S.W. 930, that when the lien is filed by the original contractor, who has specifically agreed with the owner to do the job for a certain price, a detailed statement of the items of material and labor that entered into the improvement is not required, as the owner knew what he bargained for when he agreed on the price, and need not be apprised of the basis of the charge by an enumeration of the items of material that went into the construction or improvements as agreed upon, and we have found no decision in this state holding to the contrary, where the matter was before the court upon this identical proposition.

'Defendant Kinder presumably knew what he was contracting for when he agreed to pay a specified price for the...

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