Consumer protection laws backfire; builder's sloppy filing excludes legal action but not "frivolous"
Jeffrey Harrell Builder, Inc. sued Christopher Wolff and others to enforce a construction lien. He had been kicked off the new construction job by the Wolffs and subsequently filed a lien under the name "Harrell Building Company." The construction contract was in the name of "Jeff G. Harrell Builder, Inc." While the latter is a licensed contractor, the former was not, making the lien invalid.Thus, a non-licensed builder had a lien, but did no work. The licensed builder did the work, but had no valid lien. Harrell's lawsuit was dismissed, and apparently the Wolffs thought his work was pretty bad, since they sought to "pile on" by claiming attorneys fees and costs after avoiding any payment for Harrell's work. The trial court awarded them only $20.00. They appealed this decision and the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed. It noted that the cases cited by the homeowners involved unlicensed builders attempting to utilize the construction lien statute, whereas Harrell was licensed and was attempting to overcome his naming error. While he may not have been likely to prevail, his claim of "substantial compliance" was not frivolous.