A Colorado electrical contractor appears to have had a shocking experience in its efforts to collect more than $600,000 due it for electrical work on a lower downtown Denver condominium project. Appropriately, the name of the electrical contractor was Sure-Shock Electric Inc.
Not having been paid, Sure-Shock filed a mechanic’s lien describing the entire project, but it served only the required 10-day notice on the owner of seven unsold units. Because there was an arbitration requirement in its contract, Sure-Shock arbitrated the question of how much it was owed and then proceeded to court for a determination of the validity and enforcement of its lien.
The arbitrator determined that Sure-Shock was entitled to $620,000. The matter went to court and Sure-Shock’s rights to a mechanic’s lien were challenged on several legal grounds. However, the court confirmed the arbitrator’s award and allowed Sure-Shock to foreclose on its lien.
That decision was appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals and was affirmed. The appeals court ruled that issues concerning the mechanic’s lien validity could be determined by the trial court even though the arbitration provision in Sure-Shock’s contract provided that all disputes be determined in the arbitration. The case was sent back to the trial court for further action.
The second trial court proceeding resulted in the court deciding that Sure-Shock’s mechanic’s lien applied to only seven of the 29 total condominium (and two commercial) units in the project, so the electrical work on those seven units and the liens for that work would have been only for a proportion of the work performed on the entire project—and the associated cost of that work.
The court concluded that the seven unit owners should not have their units liened for the full amount due to Sure-Shock. The judge reasoned that the most reasonable method of making that apportionment was on a square-footage basis and accordingly ruled that Sure-Shock had a lien against the seven units in the amount of slightly over $205,000—less than half of the $620, 000
it was owed. Again, that decision was appealed. On August 28, 2014, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision.
Since it does not appear that Sure-Shock’s contract allowed it to recover its attorney fees—and there is no Colorado statute allowing the recovery of attorney fees by successful mechanic’s lien claimants—it appears that Sure-Shock had to pay its own attorney fees.
The bottom line: Sure-Shock went through about eight years of litigation, an arbitration, two separate trial court proceedings, two court of appeals proceedings and it now stands to have a lien for about one-third of what it was owed. There is probably no chance that it will recover anything else—the owner is probably broke.
The one happy note is that Sure-Shock is entitled to recover interest at the statutory rate of 12% per annum from 2006. Because of the number of years involved, the interest would nearly double its recovery in dollar amount. One possibly sad note: the case may not be over.
A review to the Colorado Supreme Court may be possible, but only if that court agrees to take the case. If it does, there will be more delays, attorney fees and possibly a reversal of the lower court rulings on one or more of the issues involved.
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Albert B. Wolf is a principal in the Denver law firm of Wolf Slatkin & Madison PC.