In a May 31, 2011 decision, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that Minnesota contractors need not hire a process server to serve a mechanic’s lien statement. The Court rejected the property owner’s argument that contractors should have to jump through more hoops to preserve their lien rights.
In Eclipse Architectural Group, Inc. v. Lam, the contractor handed the lien statement to the property owner. The lien statute requires that a copy of the lien statement be served “personally or by certified mail on the owner or the owner’s authorized agent.” The property owner tried to defeat the mechanic’s lien by arguing that the hand-off constituted improper service of the lien statement. The owner argued that, because the statute used the word “service,” Rule 4.02 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure applied. That rule requires that a “summons or other process” be served by a person “not a party to the action.” The owner essentially argued that the contractor could not serve the lien statement, but rather, had to hire a process server.
The Court of Appeals rejected this argument. It held that a mechanic’s lien statement is not a “summons or other process,” and therefore, the rule of civil procedure did not apply. Most importantly, the Court recognized that, “The custom in the construction industry is for the person providing labor, material, or both, to personally prepare, personally serve, and personally record/register the lien statement.” At the end of the day, the Court of Appeals held that Minnesota contractors satisfy the mechanic’s lien statute by delivering the lien statement within 120 days of their last contribution of labor or material.