Article XVI, Section 37 of the Texas Constitution

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

Mechanics, artisans and material men, of every class, shall have a lien upon the buildings and articles made or repaired by them for the value of their labor done thereon, or material furnished therefor; and the Legislature shall provide by law for the speedy and efficient enforcement of said liens.

Editor Comments

Historically, this area of the law has been heavily litigated. Cf. Eldon L. Youngblood, Mechanics' and Materialmen's Liens in Texas, 26 Sw L.J. 665, 703 (1972) (footnotes omitted) ("Mechanics' liens, being in derogation of the common law, were created in the State of Texas for the purpose of fostering growth through improvements to real estate. The need for capital improvements led to a public policy favoring liens for workmen and materialmen which found ample expression in the constitution, in the statutes, and in countless opinions of our appellate courts. The viability of this purpose, policy, and need in the modern world is rarely questioned.").

Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • In re Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 166 S.W.3d 732, 741-42 (Tex. 2005) ("Having determined that KBR's quantum meruit claim is not subject to arbitration, we turn to KBR's lien-validity claims. KBR sought a judicial declaration that it possessed valid constitutional and warehouseman's statutory liens. See Tex. Const. art. XVI, § 37; Tex. Bus. & Com.Code § 7.209(a)(1). The self-executing constitutional lien attaches to buildings and special-order articles that are made or repaired by mechanics, material men, and artisans who . . . . When the arbitration award resolved the ownership dispute, it also eliminated the only rationale that MacGregor has asserted thus far for arbitrating the liens' validity.")

Historic Decisions

  • First Nat'l Bank in Dallas v. Whirlpool Corp., 517 S.W.2d 262, 267-68 (Tex. 1974) (citations omitted) ("It is well settled that the above provision grants a lien which is self-executing and exists independently and apart from any legislative act. Although the constitutional lien, as it relates to realty and improvements attached thereto, has been extensively litigated and its scope fairly well defined, such has not been the history of the constitutional lien as it relates to chattels. . . . We hold that the constitutional lien on manufactured chattels is available to the manufacturer only upon articles made especially for a purchaser pursuant to a special order and in accordance with the purchaser's plans or specifications.")
  • Warner Mem'l Univ. v. Ritenour, 56 S.W.2d 236, 236-37 (Tex.Civ.App.—Eastland 1933, ref'd) (citations omitted) ("That a mechanic or artisan who performs labor upon a building under direct contract with the owner has as between him and such owner a lien independent of statutory provisions, has long been well settled. The inquiry therefore is really narrowed to this: Is a plasterer who works for a daily wage a mechanic or artisan, within the meaning of those words as employed in said constitutional provision? 'A mechanic * * * is a person skilled in the practical use of tools, a workman who shapes and applies . . . . We think a plasterer comes clearly within the definition of an artisan or mechanic.")
  • Strang v. Pray, 35 S.W. 1054, 1056 (Tex. 1896) ("In the greater number of the states . . . . We conclude that a proper construction of the language of the constitution of this state, as hereinbefore quoted, gives to mechanics, artisans, and material men a lien upon the interest or estate that the person causing such building or improvements to be made thereon has in the land upon which they are situated, for the value of the labor performed or material furnished in the erection and construction of such buildings, to the extent that the lands are necessary to its enjoyment, or that may be designated and set apart as intended to be used and enjoyed in connection with such building or improvements.")
  • Atascosa County v. Angus, 18 S.W. 563, 563 (Tex. 1892) (citations omitted) ("The weight of authority, numerically and also for the better reason, asserts the rule that builders' and mechanics' liens can only be created against public buildings and grounds when the right is expressly conferred by the statutes; that the grant of liens against . . . . The legislature, in carrying into effect the constitutional provisions on the subject of mechanics' liens, has not named this class of public property as affected by such liens; and, in providing the method by which such liens are fixed, has failed to provide in the laws that regulate such procedure any right to fix liens against such public property as in controversy here.")

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