Davis v. Alvord - 94 U.S. 545 (1876)
U.S. Supreme Court
Davis v. Alvord, 94 U.S. 545 (1876)
Davis v. Alvord
94 U.S. 545
1. A suit to recover judgment for labor performed by the plaintiff upon a quartz mill and mine in Montana Territory, and to enforce a mechanic's and laborer's lien upon the defendant's interest in the premises for the payment of the judgment, is a suit in equity, requiring specific directions for the sale of the property such as are usually given upon the foreclosure of mortgages and the sale of mortgaged premises. The fact that according to the modes of procedure adopted in the territory, a personal judgment for the amount found due is usually rendered in such cases, with directions that if the same be not satisfied out of other property of the debtor, the property upon which the lien is adjudged to exist shall be sold and the proceeds applied to its payment does not change the character of the suit from one of equitable cognizance and convert it into an action at law.
2. Mechanics and laborers asserting a lien upon real property for their work and claiming priority over mortgagees and others who have acquired interests in the property must furnish strict proof of all that is essential to the creation of the lien, and that requires them to prove when the work was commenced, the character of the work, and when it was completed.
3. Work was done by the plaintiff under a contract with the defendant made Aug. 1, 1869, on two distinct parcels of property situated in Montana Territory, one a quartz mill and the other a quartz mine, separated a considerable distance from each other. The work on the mill was completed in
the fall of 1869 or in the summer of 1870. Nothing was done afterwards except to make occasional repairs as they were needed. The work on the mine was done in 1870, but it was not shown when the work was commenced. In June, 1871, upon an accounting between the plaintiff and the defendant, there was found due to the plaintiff a large sum, which the parties agreed should be a lien upon the mill and mine in equal proportions. Notices claiming a lien upon each for the amount as thus apportioned were accordingly filed in the recorder's office. Held: 1st, that a lien did not arise from this contract of apportionment, or from the special contract under which the work was done, but from the work itself, which was performed upon the property; 2d, that the work being done on different parcels of property, the lien claimed on one was to be considered separately from the lien claimed on the other; 3d, that the notice, so far as the mill was concerned, was filed too late, the statute requiring the notice to be filed within sixty days after the completion of the work, and that the occasional repairs subsequently made could not be added to the work done months before, so as to render the whole work one continued performance, for which a single lien could be claimed within sixty days after the last repairs; 4th, that it not appearing when the work upon the mine was commenced in 1870, it will not be presumed that it was commenced before the mortgage of the defendant was executed and recorded in September of that year, so as to give to the lien for the work priority over the mortgage.