IN TRIAL TO ESTABLISH MECHANIC’S LIEN
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona started yesterday a bench trial to determine if a former contractor of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC has enough evidence to establish a mechanic’s lien on IPI’s property.
U.S.A. Fanter Corp. Ltd.’s first witness, John Robertson, a U.S. mainland-based structural and civil engineer, testified through video that he agreed with U.S.A. Fanter’s evaluation that its contract with IPI was 41% complete. Robertson testified that U.S.A. Fanter was only paid $300,000 and that it is owed at least $2,089,000. He later agreed, though, with IPI counsel Cong Nie during cross-examination that he has no personal knowledge of how U.S.A. Fanter arrived at that calculation.
When Saipan Tribune left the courtroom at noon, Nie was still questioning Robertson.
U.S.A. Fanter counsel Colin M. Thompson earlier said in an interview that they had established a case based on probable cause finding. “We established that by the evidence. The court issued a mechanic’s lien,” Thompson said. A mechanic’s lien refers to a security interest in the title to property for the benefit of those who have supplied labor or materials that improve the property.
At this bench trial, Thompson said, they need to prove it by a higher standard—a preponderance of evidence. “So we are presenting evidence, witnesses,” he said, adding that they would probably present a total of four witnesses.
Thompson said if Manglona will find a preponderance of evidence, then she will issue a mechanic’s lien and the case will continue.
“We do have a mechanic’s lien now but we need to prove by a higher standard. …If we are successful, the mechanic’s lien will remain and the case will continue while we prove breach of contract and other remedies,” the lawyer said.
Last April, Manglona ordered that for the lien amount of $2.89 million U.S.A. Fanter shall have a mechanic’s lien to attach upon the improvements of IPI’s hotel-casino complex in Garapan.
Manglona ordered that U.S.A. Fanter shall also have a mechanic’s lien to attach upon the real property interest of IPI in a 1.567 hectare lot in Garapan. The fee simple owner of the lot is the Commonwealth Investment Company LLC. IPI has a leasehold interest on this land.
Manglona made a probable cause finding in favor of U.S.A. Fanter last March 27 for the issuance and attachment of a mechanic’s lien.
U.S.A. Fanter is suing IPI for allegedly refusing to pay $2,089,345 over landscaping improvements for IPI’s hotel-casino project. U.S.A. Fanter asked the court to hold IPI liable to pay $2.08 million in contract damages. The company also sought payment for interest and attorney’s fees.
IPI, through counsel Joseph Horey, argued that U.S.A. Fanter has not complied with the mandatory mediation clause.