Update on Prior Articles

We had previously written about two important cases that are now on appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The first was Bricklayers of Western Pennsylvania Combined Funds, Inc. v. Scott Development Company (2012), in which the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed a decision by the trial court holding that a labor union benefit fund could properly be a claimant under the Pennsylvania Mechanic’s Lien Law.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review at the end of 2012, and heard oral arguments in early 2013.  The Supreme Court agreed to hear argument on only two issues – first, whether a union benefit fund had standing as a “claimant”, a status typically reserved for the entities that enter into a contract with the project owner or with a contractor or subcontractor of the property owner for labor or materials.  The second issue that the Supreme Court heard was whether the Mechanic’s Lien Law should be strictly construed.   Earlier lower court cases stated that it should be.  However in Scott Development the Superior Court concluded that the strict construction rule should no longer be used but rather the Mechanic’s  Lien Law should be liberally construed to effectuate its purpose of protecting contractors and subcontractors.  The decision on either of these two issues by the Supreme Court could determine whether groups such as labor unions will be entitled to file mechanic’s liens in the future.

The second case, Milliken v. Jacono, also a 2012 Superior Court decision, decided that a murder/suicide which had occurred in a residential property was not a material defect in the property that a seller was required to disclose to a purchaser.  The Superior Court had essentially ruled that a seller was required to disclose physical defects in a property, but not “psychological defects.”  Again, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to consider whether to reverse the Superior Court’s decision.  A reversal by the Supreme Court could open the door to the need to disclose all sorts of potential “psychological defects” that could possibly affect a purchaser’s decision on whether to buy a particular property.

— Stu Cohen


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