South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Liens May Be Imposed on Public Property Only When Permitted by Statute

Appeals court held that a subcontractor had no right of action against a city to collect for work performed for a contractor who leased land from the city but failed to pay for the work. The right to impose a lien on public property exists only when statute permits it.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Lien, Quantum Meruit, Public Property

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

North Bay Construction was hired by a developer to help build a sports complex for the City of Petaluma on the city's property. The developer leased the land from the city for the purpose of building the complex. North Bay completed the work but was not paid by the developer. North Bay recorded a mechanic's lien against the property and informed the city that it was responsible for the reasonable amount of the material and labor provided. The city denied the claim, so North Bay sued to foreclose on the lien. North Bay also contended that it should be paid for its work on the equitable theory of quantum meruit. The district court dismissed the suit. North Bay appealed.


Affirmed. North Bay cannot recover from the city by enforcing the mechanic's lien for work it performed under a contract with another party. A contractor has no right to impose a mechanic's lien on public property unless such a right was expressly conferred by statute. No statutory right exists in a case where a public entity has leased land to a private party. North Bay cannot recover on the theory of quantum meruit. That is a quasi-contract theory that does not apply since there was no claim allowed by law against the city by the subcontractor.


North Bay Construction, Inc. v. City of Petaluma, ---Cal.Rptr.3d--- (2006 WL 2773424, Ct. App., Calif., 2006)

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