Washington Supreme Court Reverses Williams

In Williams v. Athletic Field, Inc., 155 Wn. App. 434 (2010), the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that a lien filing was invalid because it was not properly acknowledged. This decision created a stir among Washington construction lawyers, because the lien claimant had used a lien filing service which in turn had used a form patterned after the one provided in the lien statute, RCW 60.04.091(2).

On September 15, 2011, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Court of Appeals, holding that a lien filing that follows the statutory form is valid even if not properly acknowledged. The court relied heavily on the statutory language to the effect that the form provided “shall be sufficient.”

The court also clarified the apparently competing principles that, on the one hand, lien law is to be “liberally construed” in favor of claimants and, on the other hand, that lien are in derogation of common law and are to be “strictly construed.” The answer is that strict construction applies to the determination whether the claimant’s services are of the type that creates a lien. If they are, then liberal construction is applied to extend the protections of the lien statute.

This decision should bring comfort to persons performing lienable work who depend on lien filing services from time to time. Such services would be well advised to adhere closely to the form of lien given in the statute.

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