This proceeding on motion is brought before the court by the Ivers-Lee Company, a corporation of the State of Delaware, duly authorized to do business in the State of New Jersey, and having a place of business in this State, as intervening complainant. The Ivers-Lee Company, hereinafter referred to as Ivers-Lee, claims a paramount and prior property right in and to certain goods levied upon by the Sheriff of Essex County pursuant to a writ of attachment procured by the plaintiff, James S.P. Beck, residing at East Cherokee Hill, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Plaintiff Beck brought suit by attachment against defendant Nutrodynamics, Inc. in three counts based on Nutrodynamics, Inc.'s failure to pay certain loans. Nutrodynamics, Inc. is a corporation of the State of Maryland not authorized to do business in the State of New Jersey, and maintains no office within this State.
Prior to the commencement of suit by plaintiff Beck, Nutrodynamics, Inc. delivered to Ivers-Lee a drug product in completed pill form. Ivers-Lee was to place the pills in foil packages and then in shipping containers suitable for delivery to customers of Nutrodynamics, Inc. The packaged pills were in the possession of Ivers-Lee when Beck instituted his suit by attachment. Approximately 193 cartons of the packaged pills were levied upon and taken into possession by the sheriff. Ivers-Lee now claims an artisan's lien to the goods by virtue of materials, labor and services furnished, and brings this motion to determine the priority of its claim.
In New Jersey there is no statute with reference to an artisan's lien. Such lien stands as at common law. The only statute having any applicability to an artisan's lien in New Jersey is N.J.S. 2A:44-32, which states:
"A lien held by a person upon chattels in his possession for labor or materials furnished in the repair or construction thereof, shall not be waived, merged or impaired by the recovery of a judgment for the moneys due for such labor or material, but the lien may be enforced by levy and sale under execution upon the judgment."
Two other statutes, N.J.S. 2A:44-33 (sale by public auction to enforce lien) and N.J.S. 2A:44-34 (proceeds of sale; balance) apply only to the condition of sale once a lien has been perfected under the common law.
N.J.S. 2A:44-32, being merely declaratory of the common law, must be interpreted in accordance with common law principles. In Re Supreme Lingerie Co. , 90 F. Supp. 456 (D.C.D.C. 1950).
A common law lien is the right to retain the possession of personal property until some debt due on or secured by such property is paid or satisfied. Penn Fire Ins. Co. v. Rinaolo , 108 N.J. Eq. 167 (E. & A. 1931). This lien is one that arises by implication of law and not from express contract. Cincinnati Tobacco Warehouse Co. v. Leslie , 117 Ky. 478, 78 S.W. 413 (Ct. App. 1904). It is founded on the immemorial recognition of the common law of a right to it in particular cases, or it may result from the established usage of a particular trade, or from the mode of dealing between the parties. Deitchman v. Korach , 330 Ill. App. , 365, 71 N.E. 2 d 367 (App. Ct. 1947).
The right to this common law lien applies to a bailee, to whom goods have been delivered. To entitle a bailee to a lien on the article bailed, more is necessary than the mere existence of the bailment relationship. The bailee must, by his labor and skill, contribute to the improvement of the article bailed. The bailee having thus performed, the well-settled rule of the common law is that a bailee (artisan) who receives in bailment personal property under an express or implied contract to improve, better, manufacture or repair it for remuneration, and enhances the value of such property by his skill, labor, or materials employed in such undertaking, has a specific lien on such property. This lien may be enforced
against the bailor while the property remains in the bailee's possession, and until the reasonable value of his labor, skill, and expenses is paid. Sullivan v. Clifton , 55 N.J.L. 324 (E. & A. ...