According to a recent Third District Court of Appeals decision, Commercial Jet v. U.S. Bank, an aircraft mechanic in Florida must retain possession of an aircraft in order to assert a mechanic’s lien against that aircraft. The underlying case arose when an aircraft maintenance facility provided maintenance services to an aircraft and then released the aircraft to the owner before receiving payment. As you might guess, when the bill was not paid, the maintenance facility filed a mechanic’s lien against the aircraft under Florida Statutes Sections 713.58 and 329.51 and filed suit to foreclose upon its mechanic’s lien.
Section 713.58 creates a lien in favor of a mechanic for work performed on personal property only as long as the mechanic entitled to the lien retains possession of the property. Once possession is lost, so is the lien. Section 329.51 applies to a lien under Section 713.58 specifically for work performed on an aircraft. Under that statute, an aircraft mechanic must record a verified lien notice with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the aircraft was located at the time the labor, services, fuel, or material was last furnished within 90 days after the time the labor, services, fuel, or material was last furnished.
In the case, the maintenance facility argued that Section 329.51 amended Section 713.58 to allow “perfection” of a lien against an aircraft simply by filing the verified lien notice in lieu of maintaining possession of the aircraft. However, the Court disagreed, holding that Section 329.51 is merely a notice statute and does not create any new lien rights. According to the Court, “Section 329.51 details how, once a fuel or service provider acquires a lien on an aircraft pursuant to section 329.41 or 731.58, he may perfect his lien and establish priority of enforcement as it relates to third parties.” The Court then determined that the maintenance facility never acquired a valid lien under Section 713.58 because it lost possession of the aircraft. As a result, the Court concluded that Section 329.51 did not apply.
Florida aircraft maintenance providers need to know that possession is the law if they want to assert a mechanic’s lien against an aircraft. In Florida, aircraft maintenance truly is “cash and carry.”