Crane subcontractor not required to give pre-lien notice on public project

The Division II Court of Appeals ruled today that a second tier subcontractor that supplied and operated cranes was not required to give a pre-lien notice for its claim against the bond and retainage on a public project. 

The case arose out of a project for the City of Vancouver.  The general contractor, Berschauer Phillips, subcontracted with Dynamic International, to furnish labor and materials to the project.  Dynamic then subcontracted with Campbell Crane to supply and operate cranes on the project.  Campbell’s invoices charged only an hourly rate for crane services and did not differentiate between labor and equipment rental.

Campbell was not paid by Dynamic and it filed a timely notice of lien against Berschauer’s bond and the City’s retained percentage.  However, Campbell never provided a pre-lien notice to Berschauer.  Berschauer argued that Campbell’s lien was invalid because it did not provide the pre-lien notice.  The retainage statute requires a pre-lien notice for providers of materials, supplies or equipment to a subcontractor.  The bond statute requires the pre-lien notice for providers of materials, supplies or provisions to a subcontractor.

The Court of Appeals ruled that Campbell was not required to give the pre-lien notice under both statutes even though it provided equipment as well as labor.  The Court decided that the pre-lien notice was not required for the equipment supplied because Campbell used the cranes as tools incidental to the specialized crane operation labor and its invoices did not segregate labor and equipment provided to the project. 

A complete copy of the Court’s opinion can be found here.  Despite this ruling, a prudent sub-tier subcontractor that provides materials or equipment on a public project should nonetheless provide the pre-lien notice in order to ensure that its lien rights are preserved.

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