Chapter 12.40 RCW

SMALL CLAIMS

Sections

12.40.010Department authorizedJurisdictional amount.
12.40.020ActionCommencementFeeSurcharge.
12.40.025Transfer of action to small claims department.
12.40.027Removal to superior courtRestrictionsSimultaneous maintenance of claimsJoinder of claims on appeal.
12.40.030Setting case for hearingNoticeTime of trial.
12.40.040Service of notice of claimFee.
12.40.045Recovery of fees as court costs.
12.40.050Requisites of claim.
12.40.060Requisites of notice.
12.40.070Verification of claim.
12.40.080Hearing.
12.40.090Informal pleadings.
12.40.100Payment of monetary judgment.
12.40.105Increase of judgment upon failure to pay.
12.40.110Procedure on nonpayment.
12.40.120AppealsSetting aside judgments.
12.40.800Small claims informational brochurePreparation and distribution.


Department authorizedJurisdictional amount.

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In every district court there shall be created and organized by the court a department to be known as the "small claims department of the district court." The small claims department shall have jurisdiction, but not exclusive, in cases for the recovery of money only if the amount claimed does not exceed five thousand dollars.

NOTES:

Effective dateSubheadings not law2008 c 227: See notes following RCW 3.50.003.
Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.
Court Congestion Reduction Act of 1981PurposeSeverability1981 c 331: See notes following RCW 2.32.070.
Application, savingsEffective dateSeverability1979 c 102: See notes following RCW 3.66.020.



ActionCommencementFeeSurcharge.

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(1) A small claims action shall be commenced by the plaintiff filing a claim, in the form prescribed by RCW 12.40.050, in the small claims department. A filing fee of fourteen dollars plus any surcharge authorized by RCW 7.75.035 shall be paid when the claim is filed. Any party filing a counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim in such action shall pay to the court a filing fee of fourteen dollars plus any surcharge authorized by RCW 7.75.035.
(2) Until July 1, 2013, in addition to the fees required by this section, an additional surcharge of ten dollars shall be charged on the filing fees required by this section, of which seventy-five percent must be remitted to the state treasurer for deposit in the judicial stabilization trust account and twenty-five percent must be retained by the county.

NOTES:

Effective date2011 1st sp.s. c 44: See note following RCW 3.62.020.
Effective date2009 c 572: See note following RCW 43.79.505.
Intent2005 c 457: See note following RCW 43.08.250.
Effective date1990 c 172: See note following RCW 7.75.035.
Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.



Transfer of action to small claims department.

A defendant in a district court proceeding in which the claim is within the jurisdictional amount for the small claims department may in accordance with court rules transfer the action to the small claims department. In the event of such a transfer the provisions of RCW 12.40.070 shall not be applicable if the plaintiff was an assignee of the claim at the time the action was commenced nor shall the provisions of RCW 12.40.080 prohibit an attorney from representing the plaintiff if he or she was the attorney of record for the plaintiff at the time the action was commenced.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.



Removal to superior courtRestrictionsSimultaneous maintenance of claimsJoinder of claims on appeal.

RCW 4.14.010 regarding removal of actions to superior court shall not apply to cases originally filed in small claims court, or transferred to the small claims court pursuant to RCW 12.40.025. No defendant or third party defendant may remove a small claims case from small claims court as a matter of right by merely filing a claim or counterclaim or other request for relief that is beyond the jurisdiction of the small claims court. Claims, counterclaims, or other requests for relief filed by a defendant or third party defendant in excess of the jurisdiction of small claims court may be maintained simultaneously in superior court as a separate action brought by such defendant or third party defendant. Such a superior court action does not affect the jurisdiction of the small claims court to hear the original small claims case. The decision of the small claims court shall have no preclusive effect on a superior court action brought pursuant to this section. If the small claims case is appealed, it shall be automatically joined with any superior court case filed pursuant to this section, and the procedures set forth in RCW 12.36.055 shall not apply.
Nothing in this section may be construed to limit the small claims court from transferring a small claims case to district court or superior court after notice and hearing.



Setting case for hearingNoticeTime of trial.

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Upon filing of a claim, the court shall set a time for hearing on the matter. The court shall issue a notice of the claim which shall be served upon the defendant to notify the defendant of the hearing date. A trial need not be held on this first appearance, if dispute resolution services are offered instead of trial, or local practice rules provide that trials will be held on different days.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.
Severability1981 c 330: See note following RCW 3.62.060.
Severability1980 c 162: See note following RCW 3.02.010.



Service of notice of claimFee.

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The notice of claim can be served either as provided for the service of summons or complaint and notice in civil actions or by registered or certified mail if a return receipt with the signature of the party being served is filed with the court. No other legal document or process is to be served with the notice of claim. Information from the court regarding the small claims department, local small claims procedure, dispute resolution services, or other matters related to litigation in the small claims department may be included with the notice of claim when served.
The notice of claim shall be served promptly after filing the claim. Service must be complete at least ten days prior to the first hearing.
The person serving the notice of claim shall be entitled to receive from the plaintiff, besides mileage, the fee specified in RCW 36.18.040 for such service; which sum, together with the filing fee set forth in RCW 12.40.020, shall be added to any judgment given for plaintiff.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.
Severability1981 c 194: See note following RCW 36.18.040.



Recovery of fees as court costs.

In the event persons other than the sheriff or duly appointed deputies charge a fee for services in excess of the fees allowed under RCW 36.18.040, the prevailing party incurring such charges shall be entitled to recover as court costs only the amount of the fees for such services as provided in RCW 36.18.040.

NOTES:

Severability1981 c 194: See note following RCW 36.18.040.



Requisites of claim.

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A claim filed in the small claims department shall contain: (1) The name and address of the plaintiff; (2) a statement, in brief and concise form, of the nature and amount of the claim and when the claim accrued; and (3) the name and residence of the defendant, if known to the plaintiff, for the purpose of serving the notice of claim on the defendant.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.



Requisites of notice.

The notice of claim directed to the defendant shall contain: (1) The name and address of the plaintiff; (2) a brief and concise statement of the nature and amount of the claim; (3) a statement directing and requiring defendant to appear personally in the small claims department at a time certain, which shall not be less than five days from the date of service of the notice; and (4) a statement advising the defendant that in case of his or her failure to appear, judgment will be given against defendant for the amount of the claim.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.
Court Congestion Reduction Act of 1981PurposeSeverability1981 c 331: See notes following RCW 2.32.070.



Verification of claim.

A claim must be verified by the real claimant, and no claim shall be filed or prosecuted in the small claims department by the assignee of the claim.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.



Hearing.

(1) No attorney-at-law, legal paraprofessional, nor any person other than the plaintiff and defendant, shall appear or participate with the prosecution or defense of litigation in the small claims department without the consent of the judicial officer hearing the case. A corporation may not be represented by an attorney-at-law or legal paraprofessional except as set forth in RCW 12.40.025.
(2) In the small claims department it shall not be necessary to summon witnesses, but the plaintiff and defendant in any claim shall have the privilege of offering evidence in their behalf by witnesses appearing at trial.
(3) The judge may informally consult witnesses or otherwise investigate the controversy between the parties and give judgment or make such orders as the judge may deem to be right, just, and equitable for the disposition of the controversy.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.
Court Congestion Reduction Act of 1981PurposeSeverability1981 c 331: See notes following RCW 2.32.070.



Informal pleadings.

A formal pleading, other than the claim and notice, shall not be necessary to define the issue between the parties. The hearing and disposition of the actions shall be informal, with the sole object of dispensing speedy and quick justice between the litigants. An attachment, garnishment or execution shall not issue from the small claims department on any claim except as provided in this chapter.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.



Payment of monetary judgment.

If a monetary judgment or order is entered, it shall be the judgment debtor's duty to pay the judgment upon such terms and conditions as the judge shall prescribe. If the judgment is not paid to the prevailing party at the time the judgment is entered and the judgment debtor is present in court, the court may order a payment plan.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.
Effective date1983 c 254: "This act shall take effect on January 1, 1984." [ 1983 c 254 § 5.]



Increase of judgment upon failure to pay.

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If the losing party fails to pay the judgment within thirty days or within the period otherwise ordered by the court, the judgment shall be increased by: (1) An amount sufficient to cover costs of certification of the judgment under RCW 12.40.110; (2) the amount specified in RCW 36.18.012(2); and (3) any other costs incurred by the prevailing party to enforce the judgment, including but not limited to reasonable attorneys' fees, without regard to the jurisdictional limits on the small claims department.

NOTES:

Effective date1983 c 254: See note following RCW 12.40.100.



Procedure on nonpayment.

*** CHANGE IN 2019 *** (SEE 1048-S2.SL) ***
(1) If the losing party fails to pay the judgment according to the terms and conditions thereof within thirty days or is in arrears on any payment plan, and the prevailing party so notifies the court, the court shall certify the judgment in substantially the following form:
 
Washington.
In the District Court of  . . . . . . County.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Plaintiff,
vs.
 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Defendant.
In the Small Claims Department.
This is to certify that: (1) In a certain action on the  . . . . day of  . . . . . . (year) . . . ., wherein  . . . . . . . . . was plaintiff and  . . . . . . . . . defendant, jurisdiction of said defendant having been had by personal service (or otherwise) as provided by law, judgment was entered against  . . . . . . in the sum of  . . . . . . dollars; (2) the judgment has not been paid within thirty days or the period otherwise ordered by the court; and (3) pursuant to RCW 12.40.105, the amount of the judgment is hereby increased by any costs of certification under this section and the amount specified in RCW 36.18.012(2).
Witness my hand this  . . . . day of  . . . . . ., (year) . . . .
 
. . . .
 
Clerk of the Small Claims Department.
(2) The clerk shall forthwith enter the judgment transcript on the judgment docket of the district court; and thereafter garnishment, execution, and other process on execution provided by law may issue thereon, as in other judgments of district courts.
(3) Transcripts of such judgments may be filed and entered in judgment lien dockets in superior courts with like effect as in other cases.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.
Effective date1983 c 254: See note following RCW 12.40.100.
Inclusion of reasonable costs and attorneys' fees in execution: RCW 6.17.110.



AppealsSetting aside judgments.

*** CHANGE IN 2019 *** (SEE 1048-S2.SL) ***
No appeal shall be permitted from a judgment of the small claims department of the district court where the amount claimed was less than two hundred fifty dollars. No appeal shall be permitted by a party who requested the exercise of jurisdiction by the small claims department where the amount claimed by that party was less than one thousand dollars. A party in default may seek to have the default judgment set aside according to the court rules applicable to setting aside judgments in district court.

NOTES:

Court Improvement Act of 1984Effective datesSeverabilityShort title1984 c 258: See notes following RCW 3.30.010.



Small claims informational brochurePreparation and distribution.

The administrator for the courts and the district and municipal court judges' association shall prepare a model small claims informational brochure and distribute the model brochure to all small claims departments in the state. This brochure may be modified as necessary by each small claims department and shall be made available to all parties in any small claims action.