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Consolidated Reinforcement, L.P. v. Cheraif

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 29, 2019

CONSOLIDATED REINFORCEMENT, L.P., Appellant
v.
Ali CHERAIF, Appellee

          From the 288th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015CI16237 Honorable Barbara Hanson Nellermoe, Judge

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice, Beth Watkins, Justice.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice.

         AFFIRMED.

         Consolidated Reinforcement, L.P. ("CRI") appeals the trial court's judgment awarding Ali Cheraif damages and attorney's fees for his fraudulent lien claim. In its first two issues, CRI contends the evidence is factually insufficient to support the trial court's findings that: (1) CRI made a fraudulent lien; and (2) CRI was not entitled to foreclose its lien. In its third issue, CRI contends the trial court abused its discretion in allowing Cheraif's attorney to testify regarding attorney's fees. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         The trial court entered the judgment in the underlying cause after a bench trial. The following background is largely drawn from the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         Cheraif was the general contractor for the construction of a house pursuant to an investment contract dated January 21, 2014, between Cheraif and two investors. The investment contract contemplated Cheraif living in the house. Cheraif testified his wife selected the lot for the construction, and he and his wife intended to live in the house since the outset of the construction. Under the investment contract, Cheraif was to be paid $50, 000 for his services as general contractor provided he was able to present "clear property title" to the house free of any liens within ten months after the date construction on the house began.

         On May 17, 2014, Cheraif entered into a contract with Russell Bankston for the construction of the foundation for the house. CRI was included on the supplier list exhibit to the contract. The house's foundation was completed by June 12, 2014, and Bankston was paid in full.

         On September 10, 2014, CRI mailed a notice of unpaid claim to Cheraif addressed to the house, which was still under construction. The notice stated CRI provided labor and materials in connection with Cheraif's project and referred to a residential construction project.[1]

         On October 14, 2014, CRI mailed a notice of the filing of an Affidavit of Claim for Mechanic's Lien to Cheraif also addressed to the house, which was still under construction.[2] The lien affidavit was filed on October 15, 2014, and stated unpaid work in the amount of $5, 944.42 "was performed during the month of July, 2014." Among the invoices attached to the notice of unpaid claim was an invoice listing materials allegedly delivered on July 25, 2014.

         In February of 2015, Cheraif discovered CFI's lien. Cheraif attempted to contact CRI's president but was referred to CRI's attorney. In conversations and emails with CRI's attorney, Cheraif explained the numerous problems with CRI's invoices.

         Despite Cheraif's requests, CRI refused to mediate the dispute before suing Cheraif to foreclose its lien.[3] Cheraif filed a counterclaim asserting CRI filed a fraudulent lien. At the conclusion of the bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Cheraif, awarding him $50, 000 in actual damages for the fee he was unable to collect under the investment contract because of the lien filed by CRI. The trial court also awarded Cheraif attorney's fees. CRI appeals.

         Sufficiency Challenges

         In its first two issues, CRI contends the evidence is factually insufficient to support the trial court's findings that: (1) CRI made a fraudulent lien; ...


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