MASTEC RENEWABLES CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC. VS. SUNLIGHT GENERAL MERCER SOLAR, LLC (L-0336-14, MERCER COUNTY AND STATEWIDE)

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION DOCKET NO. A-1833-15T4 MASTEC RENEWABLES CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC., APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION Plaintiff-Appellant, February 6, 2020 APPELLATE DIVISION v. SUNLIGHT GENERAL MERCER SOLAR, LLC, Defendant, and MERCER COUNTY IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY, Defendant-Respondent. ________________________________ Argued December 5, 2018 – Decided February 6, 2020 Before Judges Fuentes, Accurso and Moynihan. On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-0336-14. Louis Anthony Modugno argued the cause for appellant (Mc Elroy Deutsch Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP, attorneys; Richard J. Williams, Louis Anthony Modugno, Eric James Hughes, and Greg Trif, of counsel and on the briefs). William Harla argued the cause for respondent (De Cotiis FitzPatrick Cole & Giblin LLP, attorneys; William Harla and Thomas A. Abbate, of counsel; Alice M. Bergen, of counsel and on the briefs). Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Cappelli, LLC, attorneys for amicus curiae Utility & Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey, Inc. (Adrienne L. Isacoff, on the brief). The opinion of the court was delivered by FUENTES, P.J.A.D. SunLight General Mercer Solar, LLC (SunLight) was the general contractor of a project to construct a renewable solar generating facilit y (SGF) on the campus of the Mercer County Community College (College). SunLight hired MasTec Renewables Construction Company, Inc. (MasTec) as the subcontractor to design and construct the SGF. The Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA) issued bonds in excess of $29,000,000 to fund the project. SunLight, as the designated owner of the SGF, entered into a power purchase agreement with the College through which it sold renewable energy at a fixed price during the term of its lease agreement with the MCIA. MasTec completed the project and alleged it was owed in excess of $10,000,000 from Sunlight. When it was unable to resolve this dispute with Sunlight, MasTec filed a mechanics’ lien notice against the MCIA in the amount $10,250,500. Counsel for the MCIA responded in January 2014 and A-1833-15T4 2 informed MasTec that its mechanic’s lien was not valid because the County Improvement Authorities Law (CIAL), N.J.S.A. 40:37A-44 to -135, specifically exempts the property of a county improvement authority from “judicial process.” MasTec settled its claims against Sunlight and agreed to reduce its lien claim to $6,900,000. Thereafter, MasTec filed a complaint against the MCIA to foreclose on its mechanic’s lien to recover the payment owed by Sunlight. The Law Division granted the MCIA’s motion to dismiss MasTec’s foreclosure complaint under Rule 4:6-2(e). The trial court held that pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:37A-127, all of MCIA’s property is exempt from judicial process. In this appeal, MasTec argues its municipal mechanic’s lien is enforceable against the MCIA’s SGF project fund pursuant to the Municipal Mechanics’ Lien Law (MMLL), N.J.S.A. 2A:44-125 to -142. Amicus curiae Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey, Inc. (UTCA) supports MasTec’s legal position. MasTec and amicus UTCA seek that this court declare that a subcontractor on a municipal construction project can enforce and foreclose on a …Original document