How do I start a small claims action?
A small claims action may be brought for the recovery of money only. The maximum amount of a claim is $5,000. In general, the claim must be filed in the county of the defendant’s residence, and the parties may not be represented by attorneys. You must prepare a small claims form available in the District Court offices in Yakima or Grandview. You must use only the forms that are available through the District Court.
At the time of filing, you must pay a filing fee of $29. Upon filing, the matter will be set for a mandatory pre-trial mediation hearing. You will be provided a copy for your records, as well as a service copy for the defendant. The party filing the action, the plaintiff, must have the claim served on the defendant at least 10 days prior to the mediation date. Service may be done by the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, a process server, or an adult who is not connected to the case. You may also serve notice by certified mail with a return receipt requested. Any proof of service must be filed with the court.
What happens next?
If you have been served with a small claims action, you can make an out-of-court settlement with the plaintiff before trial, and the plaintiff must then notify the court in writing that the case may be dismissed. At the mediation hearing, the parties will meet with a trained mediator from the Dispute Resolution Center to discuss possible settlement options. If the matter is not resolved after the mediation session, the case will be set for trial, and the parties given the date and time of the trial. For a complete explanation of what you should expect at trial itself, please refer to small claims pamphlet that can be located on the forms tab here.
The court found against me after the trial. Can I appeal?
In order to appeal a small claims judgment to the Yakima County Superior Court, you must first file a notice of appeal in District Court, pay a civil appeal filing fee of $240, and serve the other party with the notice of appeal. Additionally, you must post an appeal bond (cash or surety) with Yakima County District Court in a sum equal to twice the amount of the judgment and costs, or twice the amount in controversy, whichever is greater.
My judgment against the defendant has not been paid. What do I do now?
A small claims judgment is payable within 30 days. If it has not been paid within that time, and the parties have not agreed on payment terms, the plaintiff may have the judgment certified as a civil judgment for a fee of $5.00. You are responsible for any enforcement action then taken against the defendant; the court does not collect civil judgments.