MN Attorney's Lien Gets Priority Over Garnishing Creditor

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: MN attorney lien priority.

City of Oronoco v. Fitzpatrick Real Estate, LLC, et al., v. Whitney National Bank of New Orleans, Louisiana,. MN attorney lien priority

Attorney liens are goverend by Minnesota Statutes 481.13, which provides for two types of liens. Even though they are not mutually exclusive, there is a cause of action lien and a judgment lien. The cause of action lien attaches from the time of the commencement of the proceeding.

An attorney's lien also attaches to property involved in the case in which the attorney is working. However, as against third parties, that lien attaches only from the time of filing of notice of the claim with a UCC filing statement.

In this case, there was a competing garnishment, and the garnishment summons was filed before the UCC statement was recorded. The Olmstead County District Court concluded that the garnishment had priority for this reason.

On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the attorney's lien had priority, since it was a cause of action lien, and not a property lien. As the appeals court construed the statute, UCC filing was required only in case of the property lien. For this reason, the appeals court reversed and remanded.

No. A15-0055 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 8, 2015)

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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