How do I start a small claims action?
Any individual, business, partnership or corporation (with a few exceptions) may bring a small claims action only to recover money; a “natural person,” meaning a human being, may file a claim up to $10,000; the limit is $5,000 in all other cases. 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 $50. 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?
A party who appeals a judgment is required to follow the procedures set out in chapter 12.36 RCW. Within 30 days of the entry of judgment, you must:
1. File a written Notice of Appeal with the district court.
2. Serve a copy of that Notice on the other parties. 3. Pay the district court a $20 transcript 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, and pay a $40 appeal preparation processing fee to the district court. 5. Post a cash or surety bond in a sum equal to twice the amount of the judgment and costs or twice the amount in controversy, whichever is greater, at the district court.
My judgment against the defendant has not been paid. What do I do now?
Once the judgment is issued, the clerk will enter it into the civil docket of the court and will provide a certified copy of the judgment to the prevailing party for no additional cost.
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.