If you are now using, or plan to use, the Franklin County District Court Small Claims Division, we hope this web page will be of help in guiding you through the process. We have tried to answer and anticipate your most frequently asked questions. If you have any additional questions, don't hesitate to ask a staff member.
Who can be sued?
Exceptions and specific rules can be found at RCW 3.66.040. The State of Washington may not be sued in a small claims action. Attorneys and paralegals are excluded from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims action unless the judge grants permission.
How much does it cost?
How do I get started?
How does the notice get served?
The Notice of Small Claim must be served on the defendant not less than ten (10) days before the hearing. If you are having the sheriff's office serve the Notice, it is recommended that you take the paperwork to their office immediately to allow sufficient time to perform service in a timely manner. A return of service, or mail return-receipt bearing the defendant's signature, must be filed at or before the time of the first hearing. You cannot personally serve the claim. See RCW Chapters 4.28 and 12.40, and CRLJ 5 for more detailed information.
What if we settle?
How do I prepare for the trial?
Remember that judges are under pressure to process cases quickly, and you can help yourself by being well prepared. It is also a good idea to sit through a small claim court session before the date of your hearing. This will give you firsthand information about the way small claims cases are heard.
What happens at the trial?
On the day of the hearing the parties will meet with a mediator in an attempt to resolve the case without having to go to trial. If the case is not resolved during mediation the case will be set for trial on another date.
Don't be nervous - remember that a trial in small claims court is informal. The judge will ask the plaintiff to give his or her side first, then will ask the defendant for his or her explanation. Be brief and stick to the facts. The judge may interrupt you with questions, which you should answer straight out and to the best of your knowledge.
Be polite and don't interrupt - not just to the judge, but also to the other party. Whatever happens, keep your temper. Good manners and even tempers help the fair, efficient conduct of the trial, and make a good impression. After both sides have been heard, the judge will normally announce the decision right then and will sign and hand the parties a judgment.
What happens if my opponent does not appear for the trial?
How do I collect my money?
Even if you have a judgment, it does not necessarily mean that you will be paid. The Small Claims Court does not collect the judgment for you. If the debtor does not pay right away, the court may order a payment plan. If the losing party fails to pay, the judge may increase the amount of the judgment to cover the cost of enforcing the judgment. If the judgment remains unpaid, you may seek to enforce the judgment through the collection process, which could include garnishing the defendant's wages or bank accounts; or seeking to obtain personal property of the debtor. Remember, the court clerks cannot give you legal advice so you may need the assistance of an attorney or collection agency, whose fees may be paid by the debtor.
When the judgment is paid in full you must send written notice to the District Court that the judgment has been satisfied and paid, or to the Superior Court if the judgment has been transcribed.
Can you appeal a case if you lose?
|1. Prepare a written Notice of Appeal and file it with the District Court.|
|2. Serve a copy of that Notice on the other parties, and file an Acknowledgment or Affidavit of Service in District Court.|
|3. Pay to the District Court a $40 appeal preparation fee.|
|4. Deposit at the District Court the $230 Superior Court filing fee either in cash, money order, or cashier's check payable to the Clerk of the Superior Court. There may be additional fees that you will need to pay as set forth by local court rule.|
|5. You are also required to post a bond in the sum equal to twice the amount of the judgment and costs, or twice the amount in controversy, whichever is greater, (cash or surety) at the District Court.|
When the appeal and bond are transferred to Superior Court, the appellant (person appealing the decision) may request the Superior Court suspend enforcement of the judgment until after the appeal is heard.
Within 14 days of filing the Notice of Appeal, the District Court clerk will transmit the court record to the Superior Court who will assign a new number and notify the District Court. The District Court clerk will advise the appellant of that number, and the appellant must then contact Franklin County Superior Court for further instructions.
Once the judgment has been appealed to the Superior Court, then enforcement of any judgment entered in the case will be handled in Superior Court in the same manner as any other Superior Court judgment.
This information is intended to be a general statement of small claims procedure. For more detailed information, please consult applicable provisions of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapters 3.66, 4.28, 12.40, and applicable provisions in the Civil Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, Rule 5 (CRLJ 5).
RCWs and court rules can be found at libraries and the following websites:
www.leg.wa.gov (for RCWs) and www.courts.wa.gov (for court rules).