Articles Posted in Mechanic’s Liens

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As I indicated in a previous post, a recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court contains an important lesson for Texas attorneys who represent Texas real estate owners, general contractors or subcontractors. Texas attorneys who practice construction law should be aware that, because of this decision, claims by a temporary labor service are covered by the Texas mechanic’s lien statutes, and that service can file a mechanic’s lien claim, just as an individual laborer can. As a result, when using a contractor who uses workers from a temporary labor service, an owner and/or general contractor must comply with the mechanic’s lien statutes, including the portions of those statutes regarding the timing of payment and the withholding of payment to a contractor who has been using temporary workers. The Texas mechanic’s lien statutes are complex, and not for the faint of heart. If you are a property owner or contractor, you would be well served by retaining an attorney who is experienced in construction law to review your contracts and explain the time limits in the statutes to you. This is one area where an ounce of preventive legal advice can save you a lot of money later!

It might seem obvious that workers from a temporary labor service should be considered as “labor” under the Texas mechanic’s lien statutes. However, this issue does not seem to have been decided until recently by the Texas Supreme Court. In Reliance National Indemnity Co., L&T Joint Venture and Lamar Construction Inc. v. Advance’d Temporaries, Inc. the Texas Supreme Court decided that a temporary staffing agency could, indeed, file a mechanic’s lien for unpaid labor services.

The case arose from the construction of an apartment building in Corpus Christi, Texas. L&T Joint Venture, the general contractor, hired Gonzalez, an individual, to do the framing, drywall and roofing at the project. Gonzalez supplemented his crew with additional workers from Advance’d. A written agreement between Gonzalez and Advance’d specified that the workers were employees of Advance’d, not Gonzalez. Reliance was the surety on the job.

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A recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court contains some very specific lessons for attorneys who represent temporary labor services who supply workers for Texas construction projects.

Temporary staffing agencies or temporary labor services have become a popular and often cost effective way for a property owner or contractor to supplement a work crew or even to staff an entire construction job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2005 there were 5.7 million temporary workers, or approximately 4% of the labor force in the United States, with the construction industry accounting for about 13% of that number. Such an arrangement has many advantages for the owner or contractor: the labor service recruits the workers, and is responsible for workers’ compensation and liability insurance, payroll and payroll taxes. The labor service simply presents an invoice for the use of the workers to the owner or contractor on a periodic (usually weekly) basis.

construction%20workers.jpg It might seem obvious that workers from a temporary labor service should be considered as “labor” under the Texas mechanic’s lien statutes. Interestingly, however, this issue does not seem to have been decided by the Texas Supreme Court until recently. In Reliance National Indemnity Co., L&T Joint Venture and Lamar Construction Inc. v. Advance’d Temporaries, Inc., the Texas Supreme Court decided that a temporary staffing agency could indeed file a mechanic’s lien for unpaid labor invoices.