Friday, November 4, 2011

Stalker Brothers, Inc., et al. v. Alcoa Concrete Masonry, Inc. (Ct. of Appeals)

Filed: October 24, 2011
Opinion by Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr.

Held: The Maryland Home Improvement Law does not render a contract between a home improvement general contractor and an unlicensed subcontractor unenforceable. The statute was intended to protect the public under contractor-owner contracts and not contracts between contractors who engage in arms-length transactions with one another.

Facts: Alcoa Concrete Masonry, Inc. ("Plaintiff") was an unlicensed subcontractor providing work for Stalker Brothers, Inc. ("Defendant") on contract. The two companies did business together from 2004 to 2007. Payments were regular at first but the Defendant started to miss payments in 2005 and after an attempt to reconcile the amount due among themselves the Defendant began to miss payments again, eventually refusing to pay the Plaintiff altogether.

The Plaintiff contended that they had been intentionally misled by the Defendant and that the Defendant had signed Releases of Liens stating that all subcontractors had been paid for the work when in fact the Defendant knew they had not paid the Plaintiff thereby gaining access to funds not rightfully theirs. As a defense the Defendant claimed that the Plaintiff had preformed this residential home improvement work while an unlicensed subcontractor in Maryland and as such contracts made by such an unlicensed subcontractor were illegal and unenforceable under the Maryland Home Improvement Law.

Analysis: In broad agreement with the opinion of the Court of Special Appeals [see HERE for a prior blog entry regarding the Court of Special Appeals opinion] the Court of Appeals applied the "revenue/regulation rule". Using this rule the Court distinguished between a contract between an owner and contractor as a contract covered under the Maryland Home Improvement Law, and a contract between a contractor and a subcontractor as not covered under this statute. The Court found that the purpose of the Maryland Home Improvement Law is to protect the public and not a method by which contractors could escape liability for past due amounts due to subcontractors that were unlicensed at the time they performed the contract.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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