This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Hennepin County District Court
File No. LN 03-016772
Shawn M. Perry, Perry, Perry & Perry, Parkdale 1, 5401 Gamble Drive, Suite 270, Minneapolis, MN† 55416 (for appellant)
Richard M. Carlson, Morris Carlson & Hoelscher, P.A., 7380 France Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN† 55435 (for respondents)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Wright, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
††††††††††† In this mechanicís-lien-foreclosure dispute, appellant lienor, the registered architect on a property renovation project, contends that the district court erred in concluding that service of the mechanicís-lien statement was ineffective.† Appellant argues that the certified mailing of its mechanicís-lien statement to the property owner complied with statutory mailing requirements for effective service because a minor defect in the address label did not impede actual delivery.† We reverse.†††††††
††††††††††† In 2002, the parties to this lawsuit began a development project on three contiguous parcels of land located at 27th Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis.† The president of appellant Architron, Ltd. (Architron), Phillip Broussard, was the registered architect for the project.† Between February and October 24, 2002, Architron had an oral contract to work on a monthly time-and-materials basis to provide architectural services for renovating buildings on the property.†††
††††††††††† The respondents who are pertinent to this appeal are Tri-Star Developers of Minnesota, LLC, a/k/a Tristar Developers (Tristar), Remington Development Corporation, Prime Security Bank, and Hamoudi Sabri a/k/a Mohammad Sabri (individually and d/b/a Tristar Developers, LLC, LandDevCo., and Lake 27, LLC).† Evidence of the propertyís ownership is somewhat conflicting, with purchase agreements, security interests, and assignments of interest existing between respondents, and various respondents holding themselves out as owners of the property.† Respondents did not record most of these transactions on the certificates of title to the property.† Sabri contracted with Architron to provide architectural services on behalf of Tristar, but other entities issued checks to pay Architron.
††††††††††† Because Architron was not paid for some of its architectural work, it recorded a mechanicís-lien statement in the amount of $15,997.84 against the parcels in Hennepin County on January 13, 2003.† Architron later initiated an action against respondents for mechanicís-lien foreclosure, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and piercing of the corporate veils.† Architron also sought attorney fees on the mechanicís-lien claim.†††
††††††††††† Tristarís principal business is located at 3003 27th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406.† Broussard personally mailed the mechanicís-lien statement to Tristar via certified mail on January 23, 2003, but he addressed the statement to ď3003 27th South, Minneapolis, MN 55406.Ē† Following a two-day bench trial, the district court ruled in Architronís favor on all claims, with the exception of the claim for mechanicís-lien foreclosure.† The district court ruled that service of the lien statement to Tristar was deficient because the address Architron used for the certified mailing lacked the word ďAvenue.Ē
††††††††††† Architron moved for amended findings, a new trial, and/or relief from the judgment denying foreclosure on the mechanicís lien, arguing that the district court erred as a matter of law in ruling as it did; the findings were not supported by the evidence; and the findings were based on a mistake.† Architron submitted an affidavit by John Lynch, manager of the post office located closest to Tristarís address.† Lynchís affidavit states that (1) the postal tracking records show that the mailing as addressed by Architron would have resulted in delivery to Tristarís correct address; (2) the shipment history of the mailing shows that it was delivered to Tristarís address but that no one was present to accept delivery; (3) Tristar failed to claim the mailing after the post office left Tristar a notice to pick it up; and (4) when Tristar failed to claim the mailing, it was then returned to Architron.† Architron also offered other posttrial evidence to show that other variations of the address were invalid.† The district court denied Architronís posttrial motions, and this appeal followed.
††††††††††† On a motion for a new trial following a bench trial, ďthe
[district] court may open the judgment if one has been entered, take additional
testimony, amend findings of fact and conclusions of law or make new findings
and conclusions, and direct entry of a new judgment.Ē† Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01; see also Chin v.
191, 195 n.2 (Minn. App. 1988) (concluding that district court may consider new
evidence in determining whether to grant a new trial).† As grounds for a new trial, Architron claims
that the district courtís conclusions are contrary to the evidence and law
concerning the adequacy of Architronís mailing of the mechanicís-lien
statement.† See Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01(f), (g) (granting a new trial based on
errors of law occurring at trial or when verdict is not justified by evidence).† Generally, the determination of whether to
grant a new trial is discretionary, guided by the district courtís ability to
assess whether a new trial is merited, and the decision will not be reversed on
appeal ďabsent a clear abuse of discretion.Ē†
Clifford v. Geritom Med, Inc.,681 N.W.2d 680, 687 (
††††††††††† An action on a lien ďmay be commenced by any lienholder
who has filed a lien statement for record and served a copy thereof on the
owner pursuant to section 514.08.Ē†
††††††††††† The district court denied Architronís mechanicís-lien claim because the district court concluded that Architron had incorrectly addressed the mailing of the mechanicís-lien statement, resulting in a failure of service to the proper address.† In Eischen Cabinet Co. v. Hildebrandt,683 N.W.2d 813 (Minn. 2004), the Minnesota Supreme Court determined when service by certified mail is effective under the notice provisions of Minn. Stat. ß 514.08.† The Eischen court held that service is effective upon mailing, relying on the following principles:
(1) the remedial purpose of the mechanicsí lien statute; (2) the definition of certified mail provided by the U.S. Postal Service; (3) general legal authorities; (4) our own rules of civil procedure that provide that service by certified mail is effective upon mailing; and (5) our previous interpretation in Schneider [v. Plainview Farmers Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 407 N.W.2d 673 (Minn. 1987)], where the statutory notice provision was silent . . . .
††††††††††† The question, then, is whether the facts of this case demonstrate that the certified mailing constitutes effective service on Tristar as required by Minn. Stat. ß 514.08.† While the mailing address contained a defect, the uncontroverted evidence before the district court in the form of the postal tracking records and John Lynchís affidavit establishes that the post office delivered the mailing to the proper address.† No one for Tristar was present to receive the mailing, and Tristar failed to claim the mailing after the post office notified Tristar of the need to pick it up.† Because the defect in the address label was immaterial in that it did not impede actual delivery to the proper address, we conclude that the certified mailing complied with the Eischen mandate that it be properly directed to the intended recipient.† Id. at 817 n.4; see also McIntee v. State, Depít of Pub. Safety,279 N.W.2d 817, 820 (Minn. 1979) (holding mail constructively delivered for purpose of license-revocation statute when certified-mail notice of driverís license revocation was properly delivered to intended recipient but recipient refused or neglected to receive mail).† We also note that our decision comports with the same remedial purpose of the mechanicís-lien statute relied on in Eischen. †683 N.W.2d at 816; Ryan Contracting, Inc.,634 N.W.2d at 183.† Accordingly, we reverse the district courtís determination that service of the mechanicís-lien statement was ineffective.