On appeal from the Supreme Court.
For the defendant-appellant, Arthur T. Vanderbilt.
For the plaintiff-respondent, Lum, Tamblyn & Colyer (Ralph E. Lum).
The opinion of the court was delivered by
BODINE, J. The owner appeals from a judgment in a mechanics' lien action. The appellant caused to be erected a residence in West Long Branch. The Thompson-Starrett Company built the outside structure. William Baumgarten & Company, Incorporated, agreed to finish the interior. No contract in writing was filed. Such plans as existed when the work commenced were altered to meet the owner's wishes. P.E. Guerin, Incorporated, the plaintiff below, was the maker of hardware used in the interior of the house. It was chosen by Baumgarten & Company with the approval of the owner. The price of the total hardware sold was more than $81,000. The balance due for which the lien was claimed
amounted to $21,466.44. The hardware was all specially made and was installed by Baumgarten & Company. Materials were furnished from April 18th, 1929, to April 27th, 1931.
Samples of Guerin hardware were first shown to Mr. Parson in 1928. With his approval, blue prints and drawings were furnished Guerin, Incorporated, and a rough estimate made. Blanket orders were then given for the hardware for the solarium and the first, second and third floors. Although each piece of hardware was specially made, the testimony indicates that special orders for each piece were given pursuant to an agreement that Guerin should have the contract for the entire hardware used throughout the house and the solarium. The separate orders were given perhaps because the hardware was all specially hand made and frequent changes were made.
There was no error in refusing to grant a nonsuit or direct a verdict in favor of the defendant. The testimony abundantly shows that the principals involved treated the matter as an undertaking to furnish the entire hardware to complete the residence. Manifestly the manufacture of the special hardware was treated as being done under an entire contract and lump sum settlements were made. Although Mr. Parson moved into the house at Thanksgiving time, 1930, still it appears that hardware to complete was continuously furnished until April 27th, 1931. Some of the pieces ordered long before the occupation of the house were not completed until long afterwards. Of course, changes and replacements were made. It is manifest that there was a purpose at whatever cost to furnish a house perfect in every detail. The testimony supports the findings which the jury must have made that at the inception of the work, as well as during its progress, there was a unity of purpose to treat the separate items as an aggregate indebtedness. Downingtown Manufacturing Co. v. Franklin Paper Mills, 63 N.J.L. 32.
By chapter 212 (Pamph. L. 1930, p. 972), the Mechanics' Lien act was amended effective September 2d, 1930. This amendment provides: "that no one shall be entitled to a lien under the provisions of this act or any act supplementary
hereto or amendatory hereof for any labor performed or materials furnished prior to the filing in the office of the clerk of the county wherein the land and building to be affected by such lien is situate, a mechanic's notice of intention to perform such labor or furnish such materials, which notice shall be signed by or on behalf of the one for whose benefit the same is filed" and, &c. However, this statute had no retroactive application to merchandise, the delivery of which was long before contracted for. On the proofs adduced the question of the entirety of the contract was one for the jury.
"Under the statutory liability created by the act, where the contract inter partes has not been filed, it becomes immaterial to inquire whether the owner paid the contractor and whether the contractor paid his subcontractors, the only inquiry being whether the materialman has been paid. Gardner & Meeks Co. v. New York ...