When does the ninety (90) day time period to file a construction lien begin?

By Christopher Solop

In one of the first decisions interpreting Mississippi’s construction lien law, the Mississippi Supreme Court provided guidance to contractors on when the ninety (90) day time period to file a construction lien begins. In this decision, the Owner, Land Holdings I, LLC d/b/a Scarlet Pearl, LLC (“Casino”) sought to expunge a lien filed by a subcontractor for work performed on the project. The Casino alleged the subcontractor had failed to timely file its lien within ninety (90) days of the “last work performed.”  The subcontractor put on proof through the testimony of its operations manager and the introduction of time sheets that its lien was timely.  The Casino argued the work performed late in the project was “punch list” related and based upon the federal courts’ interpretation of “last work performed” as it related to the federal Miller Act and Mississippi’s Little Miller Act, “punch list” work could not be used to extend the ninety (90) period within which to file a lien. The chancellor found the Casino’s reliance upon the Miller Act precedent misplaced.  Instead, the chancellor found that because the language of the statute makes no reference to substantial completion as the triggering date for the filing of the lien, the legislature intended the “last work performed” to be the triggering date regardless of whether it was only “punch list” work.  The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed and affirmed the ruling of the chancery court.

Even though it appears the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the chancellor’s liberal interpretation of “last work performed”, subcontractors and suppliers should not wait until the last minute to file its lien.