Do you think that there is a difference between “furnishing” labor and “performing” labor? (Is there a difference between Godiva chocolate and Palmer’s?)  Well, the Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma recently held that “furnishing labor is not the same as performing labor” for purposes of filing a mechanic’s lien.

In Advanced Resource Solutions, LLC v. Stava Building Corp., a temporary staffing company filed petition against client which was a construction subcontractor asserting that it had provided client with laborers for a commercial construction project on an open account, that it had invoiced client for the labor, and that client had failed to pay for the services. The temporary staffing company then executed and filed a materialmen’s lien.  The general contractor ultimately posted a bond to discharge the lien and filed an action for accounting against the staffing company.

The Court of Civil Appeals held that temporary staffing company was not a “subcontractor” in commercial construction project and, thus, was not a proper lien claimant under statutes on mechanic and materialmen’s liens. The court noted that there was a distinction between a contractor and a subcontractor under the relevant statutes since the legislature did not include in the subcontractor statute those persons who “furnish labor.”  The court reasoned:
[T]he record provides that [the staffing company] entered into a contract with [the subcontractor] to provide it with temporary laborers, i.e., licensed apprentice and journeymen electricians, for use on its various commercial construction projects. The contract does not refer to a particular project. Rather, [the staffing company] is supplying [subcontractor] with laborers on an open account. Thus, [the staffing company] has not entered into a contract to perform any act with regard to the Walmart Project.
This case demonstrates once again that: words matter.  For this appellate court, the single phrase “furnish labor” was missing from the relevant subcontractor statute where those same to words appeared in the contractor statute.  Since words matters, the court invalidated the lien of a temporary staffing company who furnished labor.