Is a Technical School Exempt from Mechanics' Liens ?
In Henry Taylor Lumber Company v. Carnegie Institute, 225 Pa. 486, 74 A. 357 (1909), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed whether a technical school was exempt from mechanics' liens.
There, the court focused on whether the public enjoyed the benefits of a technical school by right in determining whether the school was used for a purely public purpose.
The court noted that the technical school was not open to everyone, charged tuition, was supported entirely by private funds, and was managed by a board of trustees.
Discussing the meaning of the phrase "for public use," the court stated:
The test whether a use is public or not is whether a public trust is imposed upon the property, whether the public has a legal right, which cannot be gainsaid, or denied, or withdrawn, at the pleasure of the owner.
A particular enterprise, palpably for private advantage, will not become a public use because of the theoretical right of the public to use it.
The question is whether the public have a right to the use.
The general public must have a general and fixed use of the property, a use independent of the will of the private person or corporation in which the title is vested, a public use which cannot be defeated by the private owner, but which is guarded and controlled by the law. Id. at 490, 74 A. at 358.
Based upon the foregoing, the court commented, "Under these circumstances, it seems to us the public enjoys the benefits of the school, not by right, as it should if the purpose was public, but by permission only." Id. at 490, 74 A. at 358.
As a result, the court concluded that the technical school did not serve a purely public purpose and consequently was subject to the mechanics' lien. See also J.B. Eurell Co. v. the Philadelphia Electric Co., 5 Phila. 230 (1980) (holding that because the public did not enjoy the benefit of an electric company's maintenance shop by right, electric company could not avail itself of the Section 303(b) exception).