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Karrenbrock Construction, Inc. v. Saab Auto Sales and Leasing, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

March 6, 2018

KARRENBROCK CONSTRUCTION, INC. ET AL., Respondents,
v.
SAAB AUTO SALES AND LEASING, INC., Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County, Honorable Deborah J. Alessi

          Philip M. Hess, Judge

          Introduction

         Saab Auto Sales and Leasing, Inc., ("Appellant") appeals the mechanic's lien judgement entered against it by the circuit court of St. Charles County. Appellant contracted with Karrenbrock Construction, Inc., and Karrenbrock Excavating, LLC (collectively "Respondents"), to complete work on property owned by Appellant. Appellant's sole point on appeal is that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction[1] to enforce the mechanic's liens because Respondents were original contractors and neither pleaded nor provided evidence that the original contractor notice required by § 429.012[2] was ever provided. We hold that, because the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction, Appellant's sole point is denied. Accordingly, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On February 8, 2013, Respondents contracted with Appellant to perform work on property owned by Appellant. The parties agreed within the contracts that Respondents were subcontractors. On January 20, 2014, Respondents sent Appellant the subcontractor lien notices required by § 429.100. On February 10, 2014, Respondents filed mechanic's liens against Appellant's property to secure payment for their work under the contracts. On July 25, 2014, Respondents filed suit to enforce those liens.

         Respondents pleaded they were subcontractors but also that Appellant owned the property being worked upon at the time the contract was created. Appellant answered and admitted the same. Respondents further pleaded they followed all conditions precedent to enforcing a mechanic's lien. Appellant answered by stating it was without sufficient information to admit or deny and therefore denied that allegation. At the bench trial, the only witness in the case testified, without objection, that the contracts between Respondents and Appellant were subcontracts. Appellant's ownership of the property being worked upon was evidenced by a deed. Respondents also introduced into evidence, with Appellants stipulating to admissibility, the subcontractor notices Respondents provided to Appellant in accordance with § 429.100. Respondents did not produce any evidence the original contractor notice required under § 429.012 was provided to Appellant. Appellant presented no evidence at trial. Appellant made no assertion Respondents were original contractors (as opposed to subcontractors), or that Respondents were required to provide notice of their mechanic's liens under § 429.012 (as opposed to § 429.100), until Appellant's motion to amend the judgment.

         After the bench trial, the trial court entered judgment on October 5, 2016, declaring the mechanic's liens to be valid and enforceable against Appellant's property. This judgment was interlocutory until the dismissal of the remaining claims on June 7, 2017.[3] The trial court amended its judgment on August 9, 2017. The amended judgment mirrored the original judgment in declaring Respondents' mechanic's liens valid and enforceable against Appellant's property. Appellant timely appealed.[4]

         Standard of Review

         The trial court's judgment will be affirmed "unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, unless it is against the weight of the evidence, unless it erroneously declares the law, or unless it erroneously applies the law." Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. 1976). "Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate 'whenever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction.'" McCracken v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, 298 S.W.3d 473, 476 (Mo. banc 2009) (quoting Rule 55.27(g)(3)).[5] "Lack of subject matter jurisdiction is not subject to waiver; it can be raised at any time, even on appeal." Id. "Jurisdiction is a question of law that we review de novo." Matthey v. St. Louis County, 298 S.W.3d 903, 905 (Mo. App. E.D. 2009).

         Discussion

         In Appellant's sole point on appeal, it argues Respondents' failure to plead and prove they provided proper notice of the mechanic's liens under § 429.012 removes the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. Appellant argues Respondents were original contractors because Appellant owned the property on which Respondents were working. See Vasquez v. Village Center, Inc., 362 S.W.2d 588, 593 (Mo. 1962) (stating "[o]ne who makes a contract to perform labor or furnish materials with the then owner of the property is an original contractor"). Thus, Appellant argues, Respondents were required to plead and prove they provided notice under § 429.012-not § 429.100. Respondents assert they were only required to provide the notice under § 429.100 because they were subcontractors under their contract with Appellant. Respondents further argue that even if they were original contractors, Appellant waived its right to appellate relief because it did not plead the trial court lacked statutory authority due to the failure to provide notice under § 429.012, and because Appellant did not lodge any objections regarding the status of the parties at trial.

         The central question presented by Appellant's only point relied on is whether Respondents' alleged failure to plead and provide evidence of their mechanic's lien notices removes a trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. It does not.

         Appellant's point relied on states: "[t]he trial court erred in denying [Appellant's] Motion to Amend the Mechanic's Lien portions of the Judgments because the trial court did not have jurisdiction to impose the mechanic's liens in favor of [Respondents], in that [Respondents] ...


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