In J. T. Magen & Co., Inc. v. Nissan North America, Inc., 178 A.D.3d 466 (First Dep’t 2019), the court applied some basic principles concerning willful exaggeration under the Lien Law to an unusual set of facts. While the court did not explicitly refer to Lien Law Section 39, it underlies the entire case. Section 39 permits a court to cancel a mechanic’s lien that is found to have been willfully exaggerated.
The unusual facts are these: defendant Nissan sought to dismiss plaintiff contractor J. T. Magen’s (“JTM”) lien foreclosure action where JTM’s lien was filed against the entire building in which both Nissan and a non-party, BICOM, had leasehold interests. To confuse matters, JTM’s construction contract was with non-party BICOM only, but called for JTM to perform construction work on both BICOM’s and Nissan’s spaces.
Nissan argued that the lien was willfully exaggerated because JTM failed to differentiate and apportion its lien based on the work it performed for the two separate tenants, Nissan and BICOM. Nissan also claimed JTM had walked off the job before it ever performed any work on Nissan’s space, so that Nissan did not benefit from the work that was the basis for JTM’s lien.