A few weeks ago, I wrote about Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-21-108, a fairly new statute that I called the scariest statute I’ve seen in long time.
This statute imposes strict liability and double / triple / quadruple penalties upon lien claimants who lose a lien challenge. As enacted, the statute didn’t draw any distinctions between good faith lien claims and fraudulent claims.
In short, if you lose any lien challenge, you lose big.
My concern was that this would have a chilling effect on Tennessee lien claims. Honestly, I was going to be nervous every time I filed a future mechanic’s lien, no matter how good my factual and legal basis was. You just never know what can happen in Court.
So, it was no surprise when I saw that House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, introduced a bill this week that was drafted by the Tennessee Bar Association’s Construction Law Section to fix this.
This proposed legislation HB875/SB682 adds a “malice” requirement when imposing penalties. Specifically, the big change comes in subpart (a), which provides:
“…a real property owner who prevails in an action challenging the validity of a lien, and establishes, by clear and convincing evidence, that the person claiming the lien has acted with malice, including in a libel of title proceeding, may recover: …”
I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to use this statute on somebody, but it’s a small price to pay in order to avoid somebody using it on me.