November 8, 2018.
case was heard by Beverly J. Cannone, J., on a motion for
Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct
E. Day for the plaintiff.
W. DiNicola, II, for the defendant.
Present: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher, &
case, we consider whether a claimant seeking to enforce a
target lien bond by commencing a civil action pursuant to the
mechanic's lien statute, G. L. c. 254, § 14, must
record an attested copy of the complaint in the registry of
deeds. We conclude that the lien statute contains no such
requirement. A party seeking to enforce a target lien bond, a
bond which has the effect of dissolving a mechanic's lien
that has been placed on a property, need not record a copy of
a complaint in the registry of deeds as a condition precedent
to enforcing the bond.
Background. The essential facts are undisputed. City
Electric Supply Company, doing business as Concord Electric
Supply, Ltd. (CES), supplied electrical materials for a
construction project in Brookline to subcontractor Michael
Franciosi, doing business as Electrical Professionals
(Franciosi). In June 2016, CES perfected a mechanic's
lien on the Brookline property by recording a notice of
contract in the Norfolk County registry of deeds pursuant to
G. L. c. 254, § 4; the notice indicated that Franciosi
owed CES $283, 056.54. Months later, Franciosi filed a
suggestion of bankruptcy in the Superior Court.
14, 2016, general contractor Tocci Building Corporation
(Tocci) issued and recorded a "target lien bond,
" pursuant to G. L. c. 254, § 14,
in the amount of $283, 056.54, the amount of the
mechanic's lien that CES had created. The target lien
bond listed the defendant, Arch Insurance Company (Arch), as
surety, and was recorded in the Norfolk County registry of
August, 2016, CES sought to enforce the target lien bond by
filing a timely action against Franciosi and Arch in the
Superior Court, pursuant to G. L. c. 254, § 14. CES
properly served Franciosi and Arch. CES did not record a copy
of its complaint in the registry of deeds within thirty days
of commencement of the action.
March, 2017, Arch moved for summary judgment pursuant to
Mass. R. Civ. P. 56, 365 Mass. 824 (1974); it argued that CES
had failed to comply with G. L. c. 254. Specifically, Arch
alleged that CES had not recorded in the registry of deeds an
attested copy of its complaint to enforce the target lien
bond within thirty days of filing the complaint, as would
have been required in a lien enforcement action under G. L.
c. 254, § 5. CES opposed the motion "on the grounds
that suit on a lien bond under [G. L. c. 254, § 14, ]
does not require an attested copy of the complaint to be
recorded and Arch's interpretation of the lien bond
requirement is erroneous."
a hearing, a Superior Court judge allowed Arch's motion
for summary judgment. The judge reasoned that G. L. c. 254,
§ 14, must be read in conjunction with "the
detailed and precise requirements of [§] 5, which
dictate the procedures for a lien enforcement action."
As G. L. c. 254, § 5, requires that an attested copy of
a complaint be recorded, the judge "reject[ed]
[CES's] claim that because G. L. c. 254, § 14, is
silent with respect to filing an attested copy of the
complaint, it was excused from doing so within the thirty
days of the commencement of the action as required by G. L.
c. 254, § 5." CES filed a timely appeal. We allowed
CES's petition for direct appellate review.
Statutory scheme. General Laws c. 254 "governs
the creation, perfection, and dissolution of a mechanic's
lien." National Lumber Co. v. United Cas.
& Sur. Ins. Co., 440 Mass. 723, 726 (2004)
(National Lumber II). Because a perfected lien
encumbers the property upon which it is placed, one purpose
of G. L. c. 254 is "to ensure that a person searching
the land records in a registry of deeds can determine with
certainty whether or not title to a particular parcel of land
is encumbered by a mechanic's lien." National
Lumber Co. v. LeFrancois Constr. Corp., 430
Mass. 663, 668 (2000) (National Lumber I). Another
important "purpose of G. L. c. 254 is 'to provide
security to contractors, subcontractors, laborers, and
suppliers for the value of their services and goods provided
for improving the owner's real estate.'" I_d.,
quoting Hammill-McCormick Assocs., Inc. v. New
England Tel. & Tel. Co., 399 Mass. 541, 542-543
(1987). "Because a mechanic's lien is purely a
creation of statute, we have consistently required exact
compliance with the statute in order to create, perfect, and
enforce such a lien." Golden v. General Bldrs.
Supply LLC, 441 Mass. 652, 654 ...