A Mecklenburg County couple has secured a $120,992 verdict against a contractor who breached their construction contract and filed a false claim for a lien on the home the couple was building.
The jury also rejected all of the contractor’s counterclaims, according to attorneys for the couple.
After the verdict, the presiding judge ruled that filing the false lien was an unfair trade practice, prompting her to treble the damages and award attorneys’ fees of more than $50,000.
Steve Pharr and Edwin Shoaf of Pharr Law in Winston-Salem report that in 2015 their clients, Kyle and Brittany Allison, engaged contractor Brian Harland to build a new home for them just outside of Davidson. Near the end of the project Harlan sent the couple an invoice that significantly exceeded the amount the parties had agreed to. After they stopped construction and requested to meet with Harland, he responded by filing a lien and telling them he was going to sue them, Pharr said.
The Allisons filed their own suit against Harland Homes, alleging breach of contract, negligence, constructive fraud and false claim of a lien. On Jan. 8, a jury returned a verdict awarding the Allisons “to the penny” what they had asked for, Pharr said. Judge Carla Archie subsequently determined that the false claim of a lien constituted an unfair trade practice. She trebled those damages and awarded the Allisons $51,258 in attorneys’ fees, which would not have otherwise been recoverable.
“The thing I thought was unusual about this is that it’s a real warning to those who file liens that are not supportable,” Pharr said. “That’s the real lesson to take away for construction lawyers, I think, that you really do file a lien that’s not accurate at a huge risk, because in this case it was found to be an unfair trade practice and resulted in treble damages.”
Pharr said the trial lasted four days and that the jury deliberated for about five hours over the course of two days before reaching its verdict, in which it also rejected Harland’s demand for $50,000 in damages for breach of contract and over $25,000 in unpaid invoices. Pharr said that his clients had offered to negotiate the matter and pay a portion of Harland’s demand, and he suggested that the contractor would have been better off accepting that offer.
“He kind of made us go the distance, which was not a good idea,” Pharr said.
Sean Dillenbeck of Charlotte represented Harland Homes. Dillenbeck declined to comment on the verdict.
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VERDICT REPORT – BREACH OF CONTRACT
Amount: $120,992 for plaintiffs, $0 for defendants for counterclaims
Injuries alleged: Breach of contract, negligence, constructive fraud, false claim of a lien
Case name: Kyle Allison and Brittany Allison v. Harland Homes Inc.
Court: Mecklenburg County Superior Court
Case number: 17 CVS 3455
Judge: Carla Archie
Date of verdict: Jan. 8
Demand: Defendant had demanded $75,852
Special damages: $51,258 in attorneys’ fees
Attorneys for plaintiff: Steve Pharr and Edwin Shoaf of Pharr Law in Winston-Salem
Attorney for defendant: Sean Dillenbeck of Charlotte