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Bruce G.M. Diesel Inc. v. Associates Financial Services Co.

Decided: March 17, 1972.

BRUCE G.M. DIESEL, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
ASSOCIATES FINANCIAL SERVICES CO., INC. AND WILLIE J. BROWN, DEFENDANTS



Toscano, J.c.c.

Toscano

[118 NJSuper Page 529] This action was brought by plaintiff Bruce G.M. Diesel, Inc., to enforce a common law artisan's

lien on a certain truck for the value of repairs made on said truck.

The parties have stipulated the facts to be that on July 7, 1969 Willie J. Brown, as debtor, executed a security agreement in favor of Associates Financial Services Co., Inc. (Associates) as secured party, on a 1966 International truck. On August 8, 1969 a motor vehicle certificate of ownership was issued by the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles showing ownership of the truck in Brown, subject to the lien of the secured party, Associates. Thereafter, in March 1971 Brown, without the knowledge of Associates, brought the vehicle to plaintiff Bruce G.M. Diesel, Inc. (Diesel) to have repairs made on the truck, and Diesel made said repairs, the reasonable cost of which is $2814.07. On March 19, 1971 Associates was still the owner and holder of the security agreement, and the payments due on that agreement had been in default since November 15, 1970. The vehicle was repossessed on March 19 from the Diesel premises by a constable whose services had been engaged by Associates to locate and repossess the vehicle. Diesel made demand upon Associates to return the vehicle; Associates refused and Diesel now sues Associates seeking damages of $2814.07.

The sole issue in this case is whether the Garage Keeper's Lien Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:44-21, eliminates the common law artisan's lien when the chattel involved is a motor vehicle. The statute reads:

A garage keeper who shall store, maintain, keep or repair, a motor vehicle or furnish gasoline, accessories or other supplies therefor, at the request or with the consent of the owner or his representative, shall have a lien upon the motor vehicle or any part thereof for the sum due for such storing, maintaining, keeping or repairing of such motor vehicle or for furnishing gasoline, accessories or other supplies therefor, and may, without process of law, detain the same at any time it is lawfully in his possession until the sum is paid.

The lien shall not be superior to, nor affect a lien, title or interest of a person held by virtue of a prior conditional sale or a prior chattel mortgage properly recorded or a prior security interest perfected in accordance with chapter 9 of Title 12A of the New Jersey Statutes.

In B.C.S. Corp. v. Frick , 19 N.J. Misc. 129 (D. Ct. 1941), the court refused to grant plaintiff a common law artisan lien superior to a prior conditional sale or chattel mortgage, contending that motor vehicles and garage keepers were unknown at common law and that the Garage Keeper's Lien Act was in some respects declaratory of the common law right of lien by an artisan. In support of this holding the court cited Crucible Steel Co. v. Polack Tyre & Rubber Co. , 92 N.J.L. 221 (E. & A. 1918), which states:

It extends this right of lien to other conditions in business life than those that existed in common law. Thus, for example, it gives the garage keeper a lien for the storing and maintaining of motor vehicles, a present popular means of conveyance unknown to the common law, and which has in a great measure supplanted the horse and wagon and revolutionized the mode of transportation; it gives a right of lien for furnishing gasoline, accessories or other supplies for motor vehicles, for which no right of lien could have properly existed at common law. [at 227]

It is to be noted that the word "repair" was not included in this explanation of the extension of the common law lien.

There has not been a later decision directly on this point. However, the Supreme Court in Ferrante Equipment Co. v. Foley Machinery Co. , 49 N.J. 432 (1967), did cite the Frick case and made several statements implying that that decision would be followed in an appropriate situation. This court believes that the situation at hand is appropriate for a more complete declaration of the law on this matter and, therefore, finds that the right to a common law artisan lien on a motor vehicle is superior to a prior security interest and thus survives the enactment and amendments to N.J.S.A. 2A:44-21.

To establish a common law artisan lien, a plaintiff must prove that "the chattel was bailed to him, that he expended his skill and labor in the improvement of the chattel, that he conferred upon it additional value, that he had the expressed or implied consent of the owner to do the ...


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