Mechanic's lien filing period not tolled indefinitely when claimant joins in another foreclosure action

Weathervane was a supplier to Woodstream Construction, the general contractor for the Van Wolvelaeres on a substantial remodel of the Van Wolvelaeres home.  Weathervane last supplied windows to the project on August 8, 2003.  The Van Wolvelaeres got into a payment dispute with Woodstream and for some reason Weathervane was never paid for the windows it supplied.  On October 30, 2003 (within 90 days after its last day of work) Weathervane recorded its Claim of Lien on the project.

On November 12, 2003, Woodstream filed a lawsuit against the Van Wolvelaeres seeking damages and to foreclose Woodstream’s lien.  Weathervane was not named in Woodstream’s lawsuit, but, on June 2, 2004, Weathervane filed an “Application to Join as a Party Pursuant to RCW 60.04.171.”  The court granted Weathervane’s application on June 16, 2004.  Weathervane then did not file and serve its lawsuit to foreclose its lien against the Van Wolvelaeres’ property until November 2004. 

The Van Wolvelaeres requested that the court dismiss Weathervane’s lien foreclosure action because it was not served and filed within eight (8) months after Weathervane recorded its lien, as required by RCW 60.04.141.  The eight month period for Weathervane expired on June 30, 2004. 

Weathervane argued that the period was tolled indefinitely because it had filed an application to join Woodstream’s lawsuit.  Weathervane relied on RCW 60.04.171 which provides as follows in pertinent part:  “The filing of [a joinder application] shall toll the running of the period of limiation estalished by RCW 60.04.141 until disposition of the application or other time set by the court.” 

The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Van Wolvelaeres.  The Court held that RCW 60.04.171 tolled the limitation period, but only until the trial court granted Weathervane’s application to join the lawsuit (which occurred on June 16, 2004).  Weathervane then had until June 30 to file its lawsuit.  Because Weathervane did not filed its lawsuit until November, the Court of Appeals dismissed Weathervane’s lien foreclosure lawsuit. 

The lesson for contractors is that you must file your lien foreclosure lawsuit within eight months of recording your lien or you will risk that you will lose your lien rights.


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