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Tappenden v. Artus

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff contracted with Artus to purchase a van under an installation contract. Plaintiff allowed Artus to take possession of the van before he paid the full purchase price. At that time, the car broke down, and Artus scheduled the van’s repair with Defendant. Defendant was not aware that Artus was not the van’s owner. Thereafter, Plaintiff demanded Defendant to return the van. Defendant claimed mechanics lien and refused to return the van until receipt of payment for the repairs. Plaintiff brought suit against Artus and Defendant. The trial court held for Plaintiff and demanded Defendant to return the van. Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A mechanic may assert a lien against a car owner when a car’s lessee authorizes a mechanic to repair the car, but fails to pay for them.

    Facts.

    Anthony A. Tappenden (“Plaintiff”), a car dealer, contracted with William Artus to purchase of a van. The contract was an installation contract. Plaintiff authorized Artus to take possession of the van before to paid the full purchase price. Later, the van broke down, and Artus scheduled for the van’s repair with Rayleigh Garage Ltd. (“Defendant”). Defendant’s mechanics were not aware that Plaintiff was not the van’s owner. Artus did not Defendant for the van’s repairs. A short while after the van’s break down, Plaintiff withdrew his permission for Artus to be in possession of the van. Plaintiff located the van, and began demanding Defendant to return it. Subsequently, Defendant claimed a mechanic’s lien and refused to return Plaintiff the van until its receipt of payment for the repairs. Plaintiff brought suit against Artus and Defendant seeking the van’s return and damages. Plaintiff alleged that he never authorized the van’s repair. Rather, Plaintiff should have made the repairs himself because he was a mechanic. Defendant counterclaimed for a declaration on the grounds it had a mechanic’s lien on the van. The judge dismissed Defendant’s counterclaim, entered judgment for Plaintiff, and ordered Defendant to return the van to Plaintiff.Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether a mechanic may assert a lien against a car owner when a car’s lessee authorizes a mechanic to repair the car, but fails to pay for them.

    Held.

    Yes, a mechanic may assert a lien against a car owner when a car’s lessee authorizes a mechanic to repair the car, but fails to pay for them.

    Discussion.

    A mechanic may assert a lien against a car owner when a car’s lessee authorizes a mechanic to repair the car, but fails to pay for them. Under common law, a mechanic’s lien has been used as a self-help remedy for breach of contract, which authorizes a mechanic, who is un lawful possession of a car to retain possession when the mechanic does not receive payment for the car’s repair. When a car’s lessee permits the mechanic to be in possession of the vehicle, the lien is valid only if the car’s owner gave the lessee authority to provide the mechanic possession of the car. An authorization by the car owner is is determined by evaluating the purpose of the lease between the car owner and the lessee and the contract terms, not merely because the lessee is in possession of the car. In the event that a lease’s purpose is for the lessee to usethe goods, the lessee is entitledto permit a third party to be in possession of the goods when the possession is reasonably related to the lessee’s reasonable use of the goods. If the owner expressly objects to the third party’s possession of the goods, the third party must part possession. In this case, Defendant’s repair of the van was reasonably related to Artus’s use of the car because it is illegal for Artus to drive the van in an unroadworthycondition, and cars usually require repairs by expert mechanics. Moreover, Plaintiff never expressly prevented Artus from authorizing Defendant to repair the van. Likewise, merely because Plaintiff is a mechanic, does not create an implied objection to Defendant’s repair of the vehicle. Furthermore, when the van broke down, it may have occurred in an area that was far from Plaintiff. Thus, Plaintiff benefited from Defendant’s repair, deeming payment to Defendant to be reasonable if Artus cannot. In the event that the repairs were not necessary, the court may reach a different conclusion, but there is not evidence that the repairs to the van were unnecessary. Therefore, because Plaintiff authorized Artus to give Defendant lawful possession of the van, Defendant is entitled to claim a mechanics lien on the van against Plaintiff. 


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