Jobsite Auto Accidents and California Mechanic's Liens

Summary: California Mechanic's Lien cannot be used to collect for jobsite auto accidents

QUESTION: One of my work trucks was damaged on a jobsite by the Developers employee. The Developer said he would pay for it, but has not. Can I use a California Mechanic's Lien Form as leverage to get paid ? Thank you for your help! Shannon

This is a good question and a good hypothetical to explain what types of debt can be made the subject of a mechanic's lien.

Mechanic's lien law provides a basis for a contractor, supplier, etc., to assert an equitable claim against real property equal to the value of the improvements provided to the property by the claimant.

Unfortunately, the claim related to damages caused to a truck does not relate to "property improvement," and for this reason the claim related to the damaged truck cannot be asserted via a mechanic's lien.

In fact, asserting a mechanic's lien for this type of claim may amount to "abuse of process" and if the claimant does not voluntarily release the lien upon demand by the property owner, the claimant might ultimately be liable to the property owner for damages caused and perhaps punitive damages.

A claim for damage to a truck might originate on the jobsite, but this claim is no different than a claim related to damage to a truck caused by the property owner that occurred 100 miles from the jobsite, at least in terms of determining whether the claim may be made the subject of a mechanic's lien.

So, the party whose truck was damaged is most likely left to pursue a damages claim/lawsuit against the developer and its insurance carrier. The damaged party may also have insurance in place, itself.

Thank you to Dave Barnier for the above response. :) Mr. Barnier is a practicing litigation attorney in San Diego CA and can be reached at 619.682.4842.

The information in this article is based upon California law and is provided for general information, only. The information provided illustrates laws and legal principals in general. Any information or analysis presented in this article is intended solely to educate the reader on general issues. A comprehensive review of facts, documents, and applicable laws is always required before any attorney can competently provide any legal advice regarding any particular situation. In short: Please do not rely on any part of this article when analyzing any specific situation affecting you or your business.

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