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Wyatt Stapper Architects v. 1501 Pacific Associates

April 11, 1991

WYATT STAPPER ARCHITECTS, P.S., PLAINTIFF,
v.
1501 PACIFIC ASSOCIATES, ET AL, DEFENDANTS, CHALKER ENGINEERS, INC., APPELLANT, FIRST SECURITY REALTY SERVICES CORPORATION, RESPONDENT



Morgan, A.c.j. Alexander, J., and Petrie, J. Pro Tem., concur.

Author: Morgan

Chalker Engineers, Inc., appeals from a summary judgment finding that First Security's foreclosure of a deed of trust extinguished Chalker's lien for engineering services. We affirm.

In April 1986, First Security Realty Services Corporation recorded a deed of trust on property located at 1501 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. The effect was to create a lien in favor of First Security. RCW 61.24.020 (deed of trust subject to mortgage laws except as otherwise provided); John Davis & Co. v. Cedar Glen # Four, Inc., 75 Wash. 2d 214, 222, 450 P.2d 166 (1969).

Between May 1985 and December 1986, Chalker Engineers, Inc., provided engineering services to the same property. In March 1987, Chalker filed its lien for engineering services pursuant to RCW 60.48.

In 1988, First Security foreclosed its lien and received a trustee's deed.*fn1 After litigation was commenced, it moved for summary judgment against Chalker on the ground that its lien was superior to Chalker's, and that the foreclosure proceedings had extinguished Chalker's. Chalker made a cross motion for summary judgment on the ground that its lien was superior, was unaffected by the earlier foreclosure proceedings, and should now be foreclosed. The trial court ruled for First Security.

If common law applies, the trial court was correct. The rule at common law was that where liens of the same class

exist against the same property, the first one filed is superior. Homann v. Huber, 38 Wash. 2d 190, 197, 228 P.2d 466 (1951). Here, First Security filed in 1986, while Chalker did not file until 1987. Therefore, under the common law rule, First Security's lien was superior.

Chalker, however, contends that the common law rule has been modified because RCW 60.48.020 incorporates RCW 60.04.050 by reference, and RCW 60.04.050 provides that mechanics' liens take priority over all liens "which may attach subsequently to the time of the commencement of the performance of the labor". First Security agrees that RCW 60.48.020 refers to and incorporates by reference those parts of the mechanics' lien chapter, RCW 60.04, that relate to the establishment and foreclosure of such liens. It disagrees, however, that RCW 60.48.020 also incorporates by reference RCW 60.04.050, because, it argues, RCW 60.04.050 relates to the priority of mechanics' liens, and not to their establishment or foreclosure. We hold that First Security is correct, and that RCW 60.48.020 does not incorporate RCW 60.04.050.

[1] RCW 60.48.020 provides that engineering liens "shall be established by notice filed and shall be foreclosed in the manner as is now provided by law for the establishment and foreclosure of liens upon real estate for clearing, grading or otherwise improving the same." We construe this language in accordance with the usual rules of statutory construction. If it has a plain meaning -- i.e., if it can reasonably be construed as having only one meaning -- we must adopt that meaning. Crown Cascade, Inc. v. O'Neal, 100 Wash. 2d 256, 262, 668 P.2d 585 (1983). If it is ambiguous -- i.e., if it can be reasonably construed as having two or more different meanings -- we must adopt that meaning which accords with the intent of the Legislature. Department of Transp. v. State Employees' Ins. Bd., 97 Wash. 2d 454, 458, 645 P.2d 1076 (1982). If it is silent, the common law rule remains unaltered.

RCW 60.48.020 does not by its plain terms incorporate RCW 60.04.050. Consequently, it is either ambiguous or

silent on the subject of priorities. If it is silent, Chalker cannot prevail, for the common law rule governs. If it is ambiguous, Chalker can prevail if its position is consonant with the intent of the Legislature. We will assume ...


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