This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






Simonson Lumber of St. Michael, Inc.,





Naomi Lee Farr, et al.,



D.J. Farr Homes, et al.,



Filed ­­December 18, 2001


Harten, Judge


Cass County District Court

File No. C9-00-263


William A. Cumming, Jeffrey W. Post, Moss & Barnett, 4800 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis MN 55402 (for appellants)


Roger C. Justin, Rinke-Noonan, 400 First Street South, Suite 700, P.O. Box 1497, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Harten, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




Appellants-landowners allege that the district court erred in ruling that respondent supplier was entitled to a mechanic’s lien in the amount of the contract price and that the district court abused its discretion in awarding respondent attorney fees under the mechanic’s lien statute.  Because we see no error of law and no abuse of discretion, we affirm.



            The relationship between appellant Darrell Farr and respondent Simonson Lumber of St. Michael, Inc., predates the events that gave rise to this lawsuit.  They had numerous dealings in which Simonson supplied materials to corporations operated by Darrell Farr.  Respondent had frequently served Darrell Farr with pre-lien notices and mechanics’ liens. 

            Darrell Farr’s wife, appellant Naomi Farr, owned a parcel of lakeshore property that included a residence, a garage, a boathouse, a driveway, and two sheds.  Appellants decided to build a home on this property and engaged D.J. Farr Homes, owned by their son, Daniel Farr, as the general contractor for a flat fee of $17,000.  Daniel Farr negotiated with respondent to furnish construction materials for the project.  After Daniel Farr accepted respondent’s bid, respondent began to supply materials.  Between early August and late December, 1999, respondent supplied materials for an agreed-upon price of $90,570.95.

In September 1999, within the 45-day period from the first delivery of materials mandated by Minn. Stat. § 514.011, subd. 2 (1998), respondent attempted to serve pre-lien notice on the owner of the property.  Naomi Farr was listed as the landowner in the Cass County records, and her address was listed as the property address.  Respondent accordingly instructed Lien Services of Minnesota, which it retained to serve liens and notices, to send the pre-lien notice to the property address in Lakeshore, Minnesota.  The envelope was returned with the annotation, “Try Nisswa.”  Lien Services then sent the pre-lien notice to the same address in Nisswa, and again it was returned.  The parties do not dispute that the statutory 45 days had expired when the notice was returned the second time.

Appellants paid D.J. Farr Homes in full for its services, but no payment was made to respondent.  Respondent timely served and filed a mechanics lien on appellants, D.J. Farr Homes, and Daniel Farr.  D.J. Farr Homes is no longer in business, and Daniel Farr is out of the state.  Respondent moved for summary judgment in its action to foreclose the mechanic’s lien; appellants moved for partial summary judgment on the ground that they had not received pre-lien notice.  The district court granted respondent’s motion and denied appellants’ motion.  Appellants sought review in this court, but their appeal was dismissed as premature because the summary judgment granted to respondent had resolved only the issue of liability, not the issue of damages. 

Following a hearing, the district court entered its order for judgment based on findings of fact and conclusions of law that: (1) respondent is entitled to recover from D.J. Farr Homes $105,629.98, with interest, and is entitled to a mechanic’s lien on the property in that amount;[1] (2) the lien be foreclosed, the property sold, and the proceeds used to pay respondent; (3) if the proceeds are insufficient to satisfy respondent’s claim, respondent is entitled to judgment for the deficiency; and (4) respondent is entitled to attorney fees under the lien.[2]

Appellants contend that respondent is not entitled to a lien and, alternatively, that the lien should not be for the amount of the contract.  They also dispute the award of attorney fees to respondent.


On appeal from summary judgment, we ask whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court erred in its application of the law.  State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990) (citation omitted).  The issuing and the amount of the lien are applications of the law to undisputed facts, which we review de novo.  Morton Bldgs. Inc. v. Comm’r. of Revenue,  488 N.W.2d 254, 257 (Minn. 1992). 

1.         Mechanic’s Lien

Appellants contend that respondent was not entitled to a mechanic’s lien because appellants never received the pre-lien notice.  For this contention, they rely on two cases, Hooper v. Zurich American Ins. Co., 552 N.W.2d 31 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Sept. 20, 1996) and Klingelhutz v. Woodsmen Const., Inc. 455 N.W.2d 98 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. July 13, 1990).  Neither supports appellants’ argument because neither applies the relevant statute, Minn. Stat. § 514.011, subd. 2(b) (2000):

A person entitled to a lien does not lose the right to the lien for failure to strictly comply with this subdivision if a good faith effort is made to comply, unless the owner or another lien claimant proves damages as a direct result of the failure to comply.


Hooper did not involve a mechanic’s lien; it concerned an insured’s failure to comply with a policy provision requiring that notice of lawsuits be given to the insurer as a condition precedent to the insurer’s obligation to defend or indemnify.  Id. at 35-36. Hooper has no application here.  Klingelhutz involved defective pre-lien notice served before Minn. Stat. § 514.011, subd. 2(b), became effective.  Id. at 100-01.  That case accordingly denied a mechanic’s lien because of failure to comply strictly with the notice requirement.  Id

            By twice mailing the pre-lien notice to the address given by the county for the recorded owner of the property, respondent claims that it made the good-faith effort to comply with the pre-lien notice requirement mandated by Minn. Stat. § 514.011, subd. 2(b).  The record supports uncontested evidence of respondent’s good faith:  (1) respondent engaged a professional service corporation to handle its lien notice; (2) the notice was twice sent, the second time as suggested by the post office; and (3) the failure of the second notice became apparent only after the 45-day statutory deadline had expired.  Because respondent made a good faith effort to comply with section 514.011, we conclude that the failure to serve the pre-lien notice does not defeat respondent’s mechanic’s lien foreclosure.

2.         Amount of Lien

Minn. Stat. § 514.03, subd. 2(a) (2000) provides that when a lien is brought “under a contract with the owner and for an agreed price, the lien * * * shall be for the sum agreed upon.”  Minn. Stat. § 514.03, subd. 2(b) (2000) provides when there is no contract, the lien is for “the reasonable value of the work done” or the materials supplied. 

  The district court found the amount of the lien to be $105,629.98.  Appellants challenge this amount, arguing that they had no contract with respondent and that respondent is therefore entitled only to the “reasonable value” of the goods it supplied.  But appellants do not dispute that the lien amount is in accord with respondent’s bid, which was accepted by D.J. Farr Homes, and that D.J. Farr Homes (on appellant’s behalf) was authorized to enter into a contract with respondent to supply materials at an agreed-upon price.  Appellant’s claim that other suppliers might have charged less is irrelevant:  the mechanic’s lien was properly set for the amount agreed upon between appellants (through D.J. Farr Homes) and respondent.

Appellants also argue that they were damaged by not receiving the pre-lien notice because, if they had received it, they would have changed to less expensive suppliers.  But the pre-lien notice was not sent until respondent’s bid had been accepted and respondent had begun to supply materials.  Therefore, even if appellants had received the pre-lien notice, a change of suppliers was then problematic.

We conclude that the district court correctly determined that the amount of the mechanic’s lien was the contract price.

3.         Attorney Fees

The district court has discretion to award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party in a mechanics’ lien foreclosure action.  Lyman Lumber Co. v. Cornerstone Const. Inc., 487 N.W.2d 251, 255 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Aug. 4, 1992).  To establish whether the amount requested is reasonable, the court should consider, among other things, how much time and effort were required, how novel or difficult the issues were, how skilled the attorneys were, how much was involved, and the result achieved.  Id. (citation omitted).  The district court here awarded respondent attorney fees of $8,811.32, the amount requested by respondent’s attorneys, for their efforts in foreclosing a $90,570.95 mechanic’s lien. 

Appellants rely on Gardner v. Hatch, 408 N.W.2d 879 (Minn. App. 1987) to argue that attorney fees should be limited in mechanic’s lien actions.  In Gardner, the court reduced the fee by 25% because the fee was almost 50% of the lien amount.  Id. at 881-83.  Here, the fee is less than 10% of the lien amount.  Moreover, this court upheld the award of attorney fees in Gardner because “[appellant’s] argument that she had substantial reasons for challenging the lien is not supported by the evidence.”  Id. at 883.  The same is true here.

The district court did not err in concluding that respondent is entitled to a mechanic’s lien on appellants’ property and to attorney fees.


[1] This amount is the contract price plus 12% interest through May 30, 2001.

[2] Respondent also brought an alternative unjust enrichment claim on which the district court awarded summary judgment.  Respondent concedes that, if recovery is allowed on the mechanic’s lien, the unjust enrichment claim becomes moot.  Because we affirm the district court in regard to the mechanic’s lien claim, we do not address unjust enrichment.