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Rockingham Electrical Supply Co., Inc. v. Wright-Ryan Construction, Inc.

Superior Court of Maine, Lincoln

February 14, 2017



          Daniel I. Billings Justice

         Defendant Wright-Ryan Construction, Inc. ("Wright-Ryan") moves for summary judgment on the sole count of the amended complaint made by Plaintiff Rockingham Electrical Supply Company, Inc. ("Rockingham") to enforce a mechanic's lien. See 10 M.R.S. § 3251, et seq. (2015); M.R. Civ. P. 56. Also before the Court is Wright-Ryan's motion for sanctions against Rockingham. See M.R. Civ. P. 11. For the following reasons, Wright-Ryan's motion for summary judgment is denied, Rockingham's amended complaint is dismissed with prejudice, and the Court will consider further arguments on possible sanctions.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Wright-Ryan was the general contractor under a contract with the Trustees of Lincoln Academy (the "Owner") to complete work at the Owner's property in Newcastle, Maine (the "Property"). (Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 1.) Wright-Ryan entered into a subcontract with TRT Electric, Inc. ("TRT") to complete work and improvements at the Property. (Id. ¶ 2.)

         Rockingham claims that, pursuant to a contract, it provided TRT goods and materials that were related to improvements at the Property. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 4.) Rockingham claims that TRT owes it $43, 308.59 for those goods and materials. (Id. ¶ 5.) Rockingham did not have a contract with either Wright-Ryan or the Owner. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 7.)

         On or about August 10, 2015, Rockingham filed a "CERTIFICATE OF MECHANIC'S LIEN and STATEMENT OF LIEN CLAIM" (the "Lien Certificate") with the Lincoln County Registry of Deeds. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 10.) There is no other lien certificate recorded by Rockingham against the Property. (Id. ¶ 12.) The final paragraph in the body of the Lien Certificate reads as follows:

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, Rockingham Electrical Supply Company, Inc. has caused its name to be hereunto affixed and this Certificate to be signed and sworn this 3rd day of August, 2015.

(Pl's Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 11 (qualified on other grounds).) The notary attestation on the Lien

         Certificate reads as follows:

Personally appeared, Karen Lane, duly authorized, known to me, or satisfactorily proven to be the person whose name is subscribed to the foregoing instrument, and acknowledged that s/he executed the same for purposes therein contained in his/her capacity as Credit Manager of the Company.

(Id. (qualified on other grounds).)

         On August 13, 2015, counsel for Wright-Ryan emailed counsel for Rockingham "seeking to negotiate the voluntary bonding off of Rockingham's lien." (Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 15.) In the body of the email, counsel for Wright-Ryan wrote, "Please let me know Rockingham Electric's position regarding this request and, if they are amendable to the agreement, if you have any changes to it." (Def.'s Opp. to Pl's S. AddT M.F. ¶ 35.) Counsel for Wright-Ryan attached to the email (1) a proposed agreement entitled "Agreement to Discharge of Lien by Bond as Substitute Security" with signature lines for both Wright-Ryan and Rockingham, (2) a "Discharge of Lien" with a signature line for Rockingham, and (3) a copy of the fully executed "Release of Lien Bond" that Wright-Ryan proposed to deliver to Rockingham if an agreement was reached. (Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 16.)

         Rockingham asserts that it accepted Wright-Ryan's August 13 offer on September 18, 2015, when counsel for Rockingham executed the proposed agreement and lien discharge and returned the two documents to counsel for Wright-Ryan. (Pl's S. Add'l M.F. ¶ 39 (denied).) Wright-Ryan asserts that Rockingham did not accept Wright-Ryan's offer, but rather "offered a new draft agreement... as a counteroffer."(Def.'s S.M.F. ¶¶ 18, 19 (both denied).) However, Wright-Ryan effectively admits that the "new draft agreement" is identical to the proposed agreement attached to the August 13 email. (Pl's S. Add'l M.F. ¶ 36 (qualified on other grounds).) Confusingly, Wright-Ryan also asserts that the August 13 email to which Rockingham allegedly replied with a counteroffer was not an offer at all, "but at best a solicitation for an offer." (Def.'s Opp. to Pl's S. Add'l M.F. ¶ 35.)

         On October 1, 2015, Wright-Ryan proposed a modification to the proposed agreement that Rockingham had executed. (Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 24.) Rockingham rejected the proposed modification. (Id. ¶ 25.) Wright-Ryan has not counter-executed the proposed agreement, and the Lien Certificate has not been discharged or vacated. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 29.) In addition, no party has petitioned the Court under 10 M.R.S.A. § 3263 to release ...

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