The opinion of the court was delivered by
This is a civil action where Mobil Oil Corporation (Mobil)
appeals the district court decision granting Sfeld Engineering,
Inc., (Sfeld) summary judgment. The district court found that
Sfeld held three valid mechanics' liens for foreclosure on
Mobil's oil and gas leases.
The parties stipulated to the facts: Mobil placed an order with
Franklin Supply Company (Franklin Supply) for three fiberglass
water tanks to be delivered to Mobil's location and unloaded by
Franklin Supply. Franklin Supply, in turn, placed an order with
Sfeld for the specified water tanks. Sfeld delivered the
requested tanks to Mobil lease sites and billed Franklin Supply
for each of the tanks. Sfeld shipped and delivered each tank in
two parts. At the lease site, Sfeld bolted the parts together,
lined the inside with fiberglass and installed fittings as
directed by a Mobil representative. After each tank was unloaded
and assembled by Sfeld, the tanks were installed and put into
operation by an independent contractor, F & O Roustabouts. Each
tank was placed in a hole partially below ground and connected by
a water line to a well. Mobil paid Franklin Supply for the tanks
delivered by Sfeld. Franklin Supply took bankruptcy and has
failed or refused to pay Sfeld for the tanks, whereupon Sfeld
filed mechanics' liens upon Mobil's oil and gas leases.
The sole issue presented is whether Sfeld is within the
statutory classification entitled to assert mechanics' liens on
Mobil's oil and gas leases.
K.S.A. 55-207 to 55-210, inclusive, confer special oil and gas
mechanics' lien rights not affected by general lien statutes. We
have consistently held that mechanics' lien laws are to be
strictly construed against a claimant and that their scope is
restricted to that clearly granted by the legislature.
Interlake, Inc. v. Kansas Power & Light, 231 Kan. 251, 253,
644 P.2d 385 (1982).
K.S.A. 55-208 provides:
"Lien of subcontractor or materialman on gas and
oil leasehold or pipe line. Any person, copartnership
or corporation who shall furnish such machinery or
supplies to a subcontractor under a contractor, or
any person who shall perform such labor under a
subcontract with a contractor, or who as an artisan
or day laborer in the employ of such contractor, and
who shall perform any such labor, may obtain a lien
upon said leasehold for oil and gas purposes or any
gas pipe line or any oil pipe line from the same tank
and in the same manner and to the same extent as the
original contractor for the amount due him or her for
such labor, as provided by K.S.A. 55-207."
In Interlake, we stated:
"K.S.A. 55-208 expressly affords protection to: (1)
a legal entity furnishing machinery or supplies to a
subcontractor under a contractor; (2) a person
performing labor under a subcontract with the
contractor; and (3) an artisan or day laborer
employed by a contractor. Protection was judicially
to a fourth category in Mountain Iron [& Supply
Co. v. Branum, 200 Kan. 38, 434 P.2d 1015 (1967)].
That fourth category is suppliers of materials to a
contractor. It would, after all, be wholly illogical
if protection were afforded to a materialman
supplying a subcontractor but not to a materialman
supplying a contractor. Mountain Iron represents
basically a judicial correction of a statutory
omission rather than an extension of the scope of the
statute." 231 Kan. at 254.
Our ultimate inquiry, therefore, is a determination of the
legal relationships between the parties. To come under K.S.A.
55-208, we must find Franklin Supply a contractor and Sfeld a
subcontractor or materialman in order for Sfeld to hold valid
liens on the leases.
Interlake, Inc. v. Kansas Power & Light, 231 Kan. 251, is
factually similar to the case at hand. In Interlake, KP&L
ordered materials from Continental Pipe for construction of a
pipeline. KP&L directed Continental Pipe to ship the pipe to
Plexco for coating. Continental Pipe, in turn, purchased the pipe
from Interlake and directed Interlake to ship the pipe to Plexco.
J & B Construction constructed the pipeline utilizing KP&L's
materials, and when the project was completed KP&L paid
Continental Pipe. Continental Pipe, however, was insolvent and
failed to pay Interlake for the pipe it had supplied. 231 Kan. at
Interlake alleged it had lien rights on the pipeline property
under K.S.A. 55-208 as a supplier of materials to either a
subcontractor or contractor. We declined to adopt the broad
definition of contractor as "one who contracts" and chose instead
to adopt a more limited and specified definition which excludes
suppliers of materials from being classed as contractors or
sub-contractors. 231 Kan. at 253-56.
We determined that Continental Pipe furnished materials to KP&L
but did not install or improve the pipe in any way. Thus,
Continental Pipe was a materialman and Interlake merely a
supplier to a materialman, "a class so far removed from the owner
that only the `plainest expressions of law' must be used to
entitle the class to lien protection." 231 Kan. at 256. Upon
arriving at this conclusion, we reversed the district ...