Lee & Lee PS Law Talk

Q: I have heard about something called “Small Claims Court”.  What is that? A: In Washington, any person, business, partnership or corporation (with some exceptions) may bring a Small Claims suit for recovery of money ONLY for an amount up to $5,000.  A claim can be filed in any King County District Court location, although small claims cases are only heard in Issaquah, Renton, Seattle, Shoreline and Vashon.  Other counties in Washington also have their own designated small claims courts.

Lee & Lee PS Law Talk (Nelson Lee and Bethany Mito)

Lee & Lee PS Law Talk
Q:
I have heard about something called “Small Claims Court”.  What is that?

A: n Washington, any person, business, partnership or corporation (with some exceptions) may bring a Small Claims suit for recovery of money ONLY for an amount up to $5,000.  A claim can be filed in any King County District Court location, although small claims cases are only heard in Issaquah, Renton, Seattle, Shoreline and Vashon.  Other counties in Washington also have their own designated small claims courts.


Q: What is the advantage of filing a Small Claims action?

A: The major advantage is cost.  Because attorneys and paralegals are prohibited from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant, this can result in a huge savings to you.  You may consult with an attorney before you go to court or after, but the legal fees will be substantially less.  It is a means of granting people access to justice for those who cannot afford to hire their own attorneys.

Q: What does it mean that the recovery can be for money only?

A: This means that you can only sue to get back money that you believe you are owed.  Small Claims court cannot help you with divorce, child custody, or the recovery of goods, merchandise, or other items.   If someone borrowed your favorite tool and you want it back, you can only ask the court for the value of the tool and not the return of the tool itself.  If you win, you are limited only to getting the money damages you suffered – and up to $5,000 only.

Q: Are there any other limitations?

A: Yes.  For example, the State of Washington cannot be sued in small claims court.  While you may generally file your Small Claims case in the courthouse location of your choice, there are some legal limitations on this as well.  For example, in the case of a traffic accident or an unlawfully/fraudulently issued check, the claim must be filed in the county where the accident occurred or the check was issued.  Check with the court clerk for all of the rules and regulations regarding the filing location of Small Claims. 

Q: What are the costs associated with filing a small claims case?

A: The filing fee for Small Claims is $35 in King County.  You will probably have additional fees payable to the King County Sheriff’s Office or process server to have the Notice of Small Claims served on the defendant.  If you win your case, you are entitled to recover your costs of filing and service fees. 

Q: How do I get started?

A: After determining where you want your case to be heard, you will need to appear in person at the selected location and bring with you the Name, Street Address and Phone Number (if you have it) of the person, business, partnership or corporation you wish to sue.  You will then have to prepare a “Notice of Small Claim form” that is provided by the clerk.  The clerk will enter a hearing date, trial date, or response date on the Notice form.  While the clerk will assist you with completing the necessary forms, the clerk cannot give you legal advice or predict a particular outcome.

Q: How do I file against a Corporation?

A: You must have the correct name and address of the corporation you wish to sue.  Keep in mind that many corporations do business under an assumed trade name.  In order to properly sever the corporation with your Notice of Small Claim, you must also have the name of the Office Manager, Corporate President, Secretary, Cashier, Managing Agent or Registered Agent.  If you do not have this information, you may contact the Secretary of State, Division of Corporate Records, in Olympia, at 360-753-7115, or visit the website at www.secstate.wa.gov.


Q: What if I want to sue a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership or DBA?

A: You must name as your defendant the individual partner/partners or, in the case of a sole proprietorship, the owner of the company.  If you do not have this information, you may contact the City or County Business License office where the business is located.  When completing the Notice of Small Claim, you must identify the Partner/Owner names and addresses with the DBA (company name).

Next topic: “What am I to do if I cannot afford to hire my own attorney? (4)”
A “Readers’ Mailbox” is set for answering any law related questions. lawtalk@seattlechinesetimes.com


Lee & Lee PS Law Talk—Disclaimer—
This article is made available by Lee & Lee, PS and this publisher for educational purposes only.  The intent is to give the reader general information and a general understanding of the law. The article does not provide specific legal advice.  Readers of this article should understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the writers or their publisher.  Furthermore, the article is not a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your jurisdiction.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here