By Mark Van Donselaar, Partner – Churchill, Quinn, Richtman & Hamilton, Ltd
It wasn’t long after I started practicing law (commercial litigation in particular) in 2005 that I came to realize I wasn’t very good at explaining what it was that I actually did. At parties or social events, it was easy enough to say, “I’m an attorney”. I was capable of that. And don’t get me wrong, I understood what I did. I understood (at least marginally well) the issues of law that I was dealing with and the procedural aspects of the law. But when it came to telling others what kind of work I did, that’s where I struggled.
Commercial Litigation is Wide Reaching
You see, from the outset of my legal career, I practiced primarily in the area of commercial litigation – sometimes also referred to as business litigation. Whether called commercial litigation or business litigation, either can refer to an astounding variety of litigation. If I were to just scratch the surface as to the types of matters that could be included under the umbrella of “commercial litigation” it would include, but by no way be limited to: breach of contract disputes, fraud cases, breach of fiduciary duty claims, debt collection cases, construction cases, all manner of real estate disputes, shareholder and partnership disputes, mechanics lien cases, landlord-tenant disputes, restrictive covenant claims, and the list goes on and on and on.
One thing that I’ve always loved about my type of practice, is that there is endless variety. However, you can imagine that when explaining to other people (especially non-attorneys) what it was that I did, it didn’t take long for their eyes to glass over. I was jealous of the family law or criminal defense attorney who could explain his or her area of practice, which nearly everyone could easily relate to.
Over the years, I think I’ve gotten better at explaining the area of law in which I practice and the type of work that I do. I’ve found that giving good concrete examples of what I’ve done for clients is often better than saying “I practice in the area of commercial litigation”. That leads me to a recent client success story.
A Success Story for our Commercial Client
A client came to me in September of 2019 with a problem. This client is engaged in business as a material supplier for construction work. In other words, they sell everything from lumber, trusses, windows, and millwork that are used in construction. As is typical in the world of construction and material suppliers, this client typically sells materials to its customers on credit. They were having problems with a customer who was well outside of its payment terms, so my client was looking to help to secure and collect upon the debt owed by the customer.
Upon reviewing the situation with the client, I learned that they were still able to perfect their mechanics lien rights for the majority of the balance that was owed by the customer. The mechanics lien allowed us to stake a claim against the real estate where the client’s materials were used, for the balance due my client for the materials that it provided. We perfected our mechanics lien on the real estate, and shortly afterwards we brought litigation based on that lien.
We served the owner of the real estate with the lawsuit, and it didn’t take long for discussions to begin between myself and the attorney for the owner of the real estate. The customer was also served with the lawsuit, but it quickly became obvious that the customer had no ability to pay my client. Further discussions and informal discovery (sharing documents) with the owner’s attorney took place. Finally, the property was inspected to confirm that the materials furnished by my client were actually used for the construction and were of good quality.
I’m happy to report that after all of the foregoing, my client received the full dollar amount of the mechanics lien that we recorded on their behalf. This matter was a textbook case demonstrating the value and importance of having a mechanics lien. The mechanics lien that we recorded secured the client’s ability to recover payment from the owner of the real estate where the work was done. Without the mechanics lien, the client’s claim would have been limited to a claim against its customer, which had no ability to pay.
I’ve been representing clients on mechanics liens throughout my career. While it (and commercial litigation in general) is sometimes a hard area of law to explain to other people, and does not make for the best stories at cocktail parties, the reward that comes with it are results like we recently obtained for our client.
Contact Churchill, Quinn, Richtman & Hamilton, Ltd for Your Business Needs
Whatever legal dispute your business may be faced with, our experienced team can provide the necessary support to successfully win your case. Contact our office at 847-223-1500 to learn more or to schedule a consultation.