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Terra Technical Services, LLC v. River Station Land, L.P.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 31, 2013

TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee TERRA TECHNICAL SERVICES, LLC Appellant
v.
RIVER STATION LAND, L.P. Appellee

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Entered July 25, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County Civil Division at No(s): 10-02348, 10-02349, 10-02338, 10-02339, 10-02340, 10-02337, 10-02336, 10-02350, 10-02343, 10-02347, 10-02346, 10-02342, 10-02341, 10-02332, 10-02335.

BEFORE: GANTMAN, J., ALLEN, J., and OTT, J.

MEMORANDUM

OTT, J.

Terra Technical Services, LLC, ("Terra") appeals from seventeen identical orders entered on July 25, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, sustaining River Station Land, L.P.'s ("River Station") preliminary objections and striking Terra's complaint in civil action to obtain judgment on mechanics' lien. On appeal, Terra complains the trial court erred in sustaining River Station's preliminary objections and striking its complaint filed under the same court term and number as the mechanics' lien claim, and for not granting Terra leave to file a complaint under a separate court term and number. Additionally, Terra argues the trial court does not have a local rule governing the filing of such complaints, and the local practice is to file the complaint under either the same court term and number as the mechanics' lien claim or to a separate court term and number. Based on the following, we affirm.

As the parties are well acquainted with the facts of this case, we briefly summarize the background underlying this matter: In 2007, Terra and River Station entered into a written contract whereby Terra was to perform certain demolition and debris removal on a 76-acre parcel of land owned by River Station for an agreed upon amount of $2, 497, 000.00. After completion of the work, Terra only received a portion of the payment for the work performed.

On March 3, 2010, Terra filed 17 identical mechanics' lien claims for designated parcels of property. Terra alleged it began the work on July 31, 2007 and completed the project on December 23, 2008, pursuant to the parties' agreement. Moreover, Terra claimed the character of the labor and material that it furnished for the property consisted of the demolition of structures and facilities, including the removal of material and debris. Terra stated the principal amount for each lien claimed was $53, 695.06.

On January 5, 2011, River Station filed preliminary objections to the claims pursuant to 49 P.S. § 1505.[1] Specifically, it argued Terra failed to file the claim within six months after completion of the work and therefore, the claim was time-barred under 49 P.S. § 1502(a)(1).[2] Moreover, River Station asserted that the parcels at issue did not meet the definition of "property" under 49 P.S. § 1201(2), [3] and therefore, the lien could not attach since the demolition and removal was not incidental to the erection, construction, or repair of a structure as set forth in 49 P.S. §§ 1201(12)[4] and 1301.[5]

On January 25, 2011, Terra filed an answer to River Station's preliminary objections to the claim. Neither party requested a ruling on these preliminary objections and did not take the action necessary to bring these preliminary objections before the trial court for a decision. Accordingly, no action was ever taken by the court with respect to these preliminary objections.

On March 2, 2012, Terra filed 17 identical complaints in civil action to obtain judgment on the mechanics' liens. Terra filed the complaints under the same corresponding docket numbers as the mechanics' liens. On March 29, 2012, River Station filed preliminary objections to the complaint, claiming that underlying mechanics' lien was defective and should be stricken based on the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 1651(b), 1653, and 1656(2).[6] River Station also renewed its original preliminary objections. Terra responded on April 18, 2012.

On July 25, 2012, at Docket No. 10-02332, the trial court issued an order sustaining the preliminary objections and striking the complaints. In a footnote, the court explained its rationale:

The preliminary objections raise, inter alia, the issue of whether or not an action to obtain judgment upon a mechanics' lien claim can be maintained as part of the mechanics' lien claim itself. We hold that it cannot. The action must be commenced by filing a complaint or an agreement for an amicable action. Filing a complaint in an existing proceeding is not commencement of the action. The complaint must set forth "the court and number and the date of the filing of the claim and a copy thereof as an exhibit." Pa.R.C.P. No. 1656(2). These requirements make no sense if the complaint is filed in the same case as the lien claim itself. As stated in Tully Drilling Co., Inc. v. Shenkin, 409 Pa.Super. 333, 597 A.2d 1230 (Pa.Super. 1991), "Under existing law, the proceedings in mechanics' lien cases fall into two distinct, consecutive stages: (1) filing and perfecting the claim of a mechanics' lien; and (2) instituting and prosecuting an action sur claim of a mechanics' lien. The papers relating to each stage are entered in separate dockets, kept in separate files, and bear separate designations of court term and number." Id[.] at 337-338, 597 A.2d at 1232.

Order, 7/25/2012, at 1 n.1.[7]

On August 2, 2012, Terra filed a motion for reconsideration and for leave to file complaint nunc pro tunc. On August 21, 2012, Terra also filed this appeal.[8] By order dated August 23, 2012, the court denied Terra's motion for ...


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