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Claims By Unlicensed Home Improvement Contractor Dismissed: Sanctions Assessed For Frivolous Litigation and Notice of Pendency

In jurisdictions where home improvement contractors must be licensed, including New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, an unlicensed contractor may not recover for home improvement work or repairs on any legal theory. Accordingly, a mechanic’s lien for alleged home improvement work that was filed by an unlicensed individual was expunged by the court.  Falco v. Miller, Index No. 606648/2015 (Sup. Ct. Suffolk Co. June 22, 2016).  Thereafter, the same individual filed a complaint asserting claims for unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and constructive trust based upon the same alleged work, and also filed a notice of pendency.  The court dismissed the claims and cancelled the notice of pendency because the individual still had not provided proof of licensure, and his claims raised the same issues that were already resolved against him.  Falco v. Miller, Index No. 606648/2015 (Sup. Ct. Suffolk Co. Dec. 14, 2016).

In addition to dismissing the unlicensed individual’s claims, the court found that the filing of such claims was frivolous, because the court had previously ruled against the plaintiff on the same issue.  Moreover, the facts and circumstances surrounding the litigation compelled the conclusion that the litigation was undertaken primarily for the improper purpose of preventing the executor of the estate that owned the premises from selling them while they were encumbered by the mechanic’s lien and later the notice of pendency.  This evidenced an intention “to prolong the resolution of the Estate and ‘harass or maliciously injure’” the executor.  As a sanction, in a subsequent decision the court granted an award of attorneys’ fees and legal expenses, payable jointly by both the party who filed the claims and his attorney.  Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer, LLP represents the successful executor in this case.