(1) When the owner or any lienor shall, by fraud or collusion, deprive or attempt to deprive any lienor of benefits or rights to which such lienor is entitled under this part by establishing or manipulating the contract price or by giving false affidavits, releases, invoices, worthless checks, statements, or written instruments permitted or required under this part relating to the improvement of real property hereunder to the detriment of any such lienor, the circuit court in chancery shall have jurisdiction, upon a complaint filed by such lienor, to issue temporary and permanent injunctions, order accountings, grant discovery, utilize all remedies available under creditors’ bills and proceedings supplementary to execution, marshal assets, and exercise any other appropriate legal or equitable remedies or procedures without regard to the adequacy of a remedy at law or whether or not irreparable damage has or will be done.
(2)(a) Any lien asserted under this part in which the lienor has willfully exaggerated the amount for which such lien is claimed or in which the lienor has willfully included a claim for work not performed upon or materials not furnished for the property upon which he or she seeks to impress such lien or in which the lienor has compiled his or her claim with such willful and gross negligence as to amount to a willful exaggeration shall be deemed a fraudulent lien.
(b) It is a complete defense to any action to enforce a lien under this part, or against any lien in any action in which the validity of the lien is an issue, that the lien is a fraudulent lien; and the court so finding is empowered to and shall declare the lien unenforceable, and the lienor thereupon forfeits his or her right to any lien on the property upon which he or she sought to impress such fraudulent lien. However, a minor mistake or error in a claim of lien, or a good faith dispute as to the amount due does not constitute a willful exaggeration that operates to defeat an otherwise valid lien.
(c) An owner against whose interest in real property a fraudulent lien is filed, or any contractor, subcontractor, or sub-subcontractor who suffers damages as a result of the filing of the fraudulent lien, shall have a right of action for damages occasioned thereby. The action may be instituted independently of any other action, or in connection with a summons to show cause under s. 713.21, or as a counterclaim or cross-claim to any action to enforce or to determine the validity of the lien. The prevailing party in an action under this paragraph may recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. If the lienor who files a fraudulent lien is not the prevailing party, the lienor shall be liable to the owner or the defrauded party who prevails in an action under this subsection in damages, which shall include court costs, clerk’s fees, a reasonable attorney’s fee and costs for services in securing the discharge of the lien, the amount of any premium for a bond given to obtain the discharge of the lien, interest on any money deposited for the purpose of discharging the lien, and punitive damages in an amount not exceeding the difference between the amount claimed by the lienor to be due or to become due and the amount actually due or to become due.
(3) Any person who willfully files a fraudulent lien, as defined in this section, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. A state attorney or the statewide prosecutor, upon the filing of an indictment or information against a contractor, subcontractor, or sub-subcontractor which charges such person with a violation of this subsection, shall forward a copy of the indictment or information to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation shall promptly open an investigation into the matter, and if probable cause is found, shall furnish a copy of any investigative report to the state attorney or statewide prosecutor who furnished a copy of the indictment or information and to the owner of the property which is the subject of the investigation.
History.—s. 1, ch. 63-135; s. 35, ch. 67-254; s. 12, ch. 77-353; s. 260, ch. 79-400; s. 9, ch. 80-97; s. 15, ch. 90-109; s. 8, ch. 95-240; s. 818, ch. 97-102; s. 6, ch. 2003-177; s. 13, ch. 2007-221.