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Lakloey, Inc. v. Ballek

Supreme Court of Alaska

July 10, 2009

LAKLOEY, INC., Appellant,
v.
Jeffery BALLEK, White Eagle Construction, and White Eagle, Inc., Appellees.

Page 663

John J. Connors, Law Office of John J. Connors, P.C., Fairbanks, for Appellant.

John J. Burns, Borgeson & Burns, P.C., Fairbanks, for Appellee.

Before : FABE, Chief Justice, EASTAUGH, CARPENETI, and WINFREE, Justices.

OPINION

WINFREE, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Alaska's mechanic's lien statutes allow a lessor of construction equipment to lien real property if its equipment is used under agreement with the property owner or the owner's agent " for the construction, alteration, or repair of a building or improvement" on the property.[1] In this case a landscaper purchased fill dirt from a construction company and rented heavy machinery from an equipment lessor to remove and transport the dirt from the construction company's property. The landscaper did not pay for the equipment rental, and the lessor recorded a lien against the property on which the fill dirt had been located. The construction company sued to expunge the lien. The superior court found in favor of the construction company, declaring the lien void and awarding the construction company full reasonable attorney's fees under the mechanic's lien statutes. The lessor appeals. We affirm the rulings because the lessor's equipment was not used to perform lienable work on the property and because the court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of attorney's fees awarded under the statutes.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

White Eagle, Inc. owned property in North Pole on which it intended to build condominiums. Three pits were excavated for foundations, and the dirt removed from the pits was piled up on White Eagle's property. The dirt pile extended onto an adjacent state right-of-way, but the state never contacted White Eagle about this encroachment.

In September 2006 Charles Yingst, the owner of a landscaping business, contacted Jeffrey Ballek, the president of White Eagle, about purchasing some of the dirt for his landscaping projects. Yingst's landscaping projects did not involve Ballek or White Eagle. Ballek and Yingst agreed that Yingst would purchase dirt at one dollar per yard and would use his own equipment and personnel to load and move the dirt.

Yingst rented a loader from Lakloey, Inc. The rental agreement did not mention Ballek, White Eagle, or White Eagle's property; it specified only that the loader would be used in the North Pole area. Yingst testified that he used the loader to remove some dirt from White Eagle's property, which then was used for Yingst's landscaping projects.

Yingst later was arrested and convicted of felony theft unrelated to this case. Yingst's employees returned the loader to Lakloey's equipment yard in damaged condition. Fearing Yingst would be unable to pay the rental charges and the cost to repair the loader, Lakloey recorded a lien against White Eagle's property on October 27, 2006, for $9,663 plus costs, fees, and twelve percent interest. Ballek learned of the lien and asked Lakloey to release it. Although Lakloey

Page 664

indicated a willingness to negotiate, the lien ...


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