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P.O. Box 1220
Port Townsend, 
WA 98368

Dist Court: 360.385.9135
Probation: 360.385.9123
Fax: 360.385.9367

Monday - Friday
8:30 to 4:30



Who Can Sue and Be Sued?
Any individual, business, partnership, or corporation (with a couple of exceptions) may bring a small claims suit for recovery of money only for an amount up to $5,000.

Filing A Claim - How much Does It Cost?
A small claims case may be filed in Jefferson County if that is the defendant's residence, or in the case of a traffic accident, or an unlawfully issued check, if the accident occurred or the check was issued in Jefferson County.  The State of Washington may not be sued in Small Claims Court.  A Notice of Small Claim form is provided by the Court.  The clerk will assist with this procedure, but the clerk is prohibited by law from giving legal advice.  At the time of filing, the plaintiff must pay a filing fee of $39.00 (in Jefferson County).  The plaintiff is then given an appearance date and a copy of the claim form to be served upon the defendant.  It is the responsibility of the plaintiff to accurately identify the defendant (either as an individual, a corporation, or as an individual or a corporation doing business under another name), provide a proper address (for the defendant) and, if possible, provide the defendant’s telephone number.

How Do I File Against a Corporation?
Because many corporations do business under an assumed trade name, you must have the correct name and address of the Corporation you wish to sue: i.e., XYZ Co., Inc. (or incorporated, or Ltd.).

In order to obtain service, you must 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 the State, Division of Corporate Records, in Olympia at 360-753-7115, Monday to Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m..

You may file your small claim action in the Jefferson County District Court if the corporation does business in Jefferson County, the corporate office is located in Jefferson County, or the Registered Agent is located in Jefferson County. (RCW 4.66.040(6)).

When completing the Notice of Small Claim form you should list the corporation name and the office address or the name and address of the Registered Agent.

Service on a corporation is obtained by serving the Registered Agent, Corporate President, Secretary, Treasurer, Managing Agent, or the Secretary or Office Assistant of the President, Secretary, Treasurer, or Managing Agent. (RCW 23A.08.110; 23A.32.200; 4.28.080(9)).

How Do I File Against a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership or a DBA?
You must name as defendant the individual partner, partners or in the case of a sole proprietorship, the owner of the non-incorporated company.

If you do not have the information, you may call the City or County Business License Office where the business is located.

When completing the Notice of Small Claim form, you must list the Partner/Owner names and addresses with the DBA (company name).

You may file your small claim against a partnership or sole proprietorship in Jefferson County District Court, if one of the partners or sole proprietor resides in Jefferson County, or if the business is located in Jefferson County.

The defendant may file a counterclaim against the plaintiff for any money he believes the plaintiff owes him, but this must be done immediately upon receipt of the claim of the plaintiff.  A counterclaim must be filed and served in the same manner as the original claim.  In other words, the defendant will have to pay a separate filing fee of $39.00 and fill out a Notice of Small Claim form to be served on the plaintiff.

Serving The Notice
It is the responsibility of the plaintiff (or the defendant for a counterclaim) to see that the Notice of Small Claim form is served upon the opposing party no less than ten (10) days prior to the trial date.  The Court will not serve notice on the other party.  Additional fees payable to the Sheriff or process server may be necessary to have the Notice of Small Claim form served on the opposing party.  A party who prevails at trial may be entitled to recover the costs of filing and service fees.

  1. Service of the claim can be accomplished by any of the following methods:

  2. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (385-3831)

  3. A professional process server (see telephone Yellow Pages).

  4. Any person of legal age (18) who is not connected with the case, either as a witness or as a party.

  5. By mailing copies of the Notice of Small Claim to the defendant by registered or certified mail with a return receipt requested.

The plaintiff cannot personally serve the copies of the Notice of Small Claim.  Proof of service must be filed with the Court.  If service was by mail, the postal receipt bearing the defendant's signature must be filed with the Court.  For all other service an Affidavit of Service must be signed by the server and filed with the Court. An Affidavit of Service states in writing the following:

  1. The date the Claim form was served.

  2. Upon whom it was served.

  3.  Address where served.

  4. The name of the person who did the serving. The person who does the service must sign an affidavit before a Notary Public, or sign a certification in lieu of a notarized statement.

The Court can provide an Affidavit of Service form.

When Will The Case Be Heard?
Cases are generally heard between 30 and 90 days from the date of filing. You will be given a date and time to appear.  There will be other small claims disputes scheduled for the same date and time as yours.

Typical Cases
Typical cases involve, but are not limited to, auto accidents, property damage, landlord/tenant disputes and collection of personal debts.

What If We Settle?
If you settle the dispute before the hearing, you must inform the Court so the hearing can be canceled and your case dismissed.  If the other party agrees to pay at a later date, you may ask the Court for a continuance.  If the other party pays before the postponed date, ask the Court to cancel the hearing. If you do not receive your money by the time of the continued hearing, proceed with the case in Court.  If you drop the suit, your filing fee and service costs are not returned.

First Appearance-Mediation
At the first appearance, an employee or agent (not an attorney) may appear on your behalf if that employee/agent has  sufficient facts in order to present the case and is authorized to bind the party represented.  If the plaintiff and defendant both appear on the assigned first appearance date, it is mandatory that they participate in mediation to attempt to settle their dispute.  In most cases, neither party is one hundred percent right nor wrong. You are encouraged to try to settle your case before trial.  The case will be assigned to a trained mediator and mediation will follow immediately as scheduling permits.  Mediation is mandatory before a trial is allowed.  The purpose of  mediation is to settle the case if possible; if no settlement is made at mediation, the case will be set for trial.  Attorneys and paralegals may not represent parties at mediation.  If the parties have already submitted the case to another type of mediation or arbitration service, the case may proceed directly to trial. If agreement is reached the parties will sign an agreement which will be entered into the record.  Parties will receive a copy of the agreement.  No judgment will be entered.  If  the agreement is breached, the nonbreaching party may return to the Court for judgment after filing a motion and affidavit setting forth the failure to comply with the terms of the agreement.  A copy of this motion and affidavit MUST be served on the other party and proof of that service presented to the Court prior to the Court entering a judgment.

If the plaintiff fails to appear at first appearance, a dismissal will be entered.  In cases where the defendant has filed a written counterclaim against the plaintiff and proof of service is presented, the defendant may be allowed judgment against the plaintiff on the counterclaim.

If the defendant fails to appear and proof of service is presented, and if the plaintiff’s testimony supports the claim, the plaintiff will be granted a default judgment against the defendant up to the amount set forth in the Notice of Small Claim form and for costs of filing and service.

If neither party appears the case will be dismissed without prejudice.

Preparing For The Trial
You can help yourself by being well prepared.  To prepare for the trial, collect all papers, photographs, receipts, estimates, cancelled checks, or other documents that concern the case.  It may be helpful to write down ahead of time the facts of the case in order that they occurred.  This will help you to organize your thoughts and to make a clear presentation of your story to the judge.  It is also a good idea to sit through a small claims court session before the date of your hearing. This will give you first-hand information about the way small claims cases are heard.

The Trial
Your case will be heard by a District Court judge or judge pro-tem.  A judge pro-tem is an attorney who is hired to fill in for judicial vacations and sick leave. A judge pro-tem has all the responsibilities and powers of a judge. Attorneys and paralegals are excluded from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims suit unless the judge grants advance permission.  Each party will have a chance to tell their side of the story.  It is important to bring evidence such as photos, witnesses, bills, receipts, contracts or anything else that will prove your case. The judge may decide the case at the time of the hearing or mail a written decision to the parties.  Both plaintiff and defendant may testify, call witnesses, and present exhibits for the Court to consider.  If it is inconvenient or overly expensive to call a witness to appear personally, affidavits of witnesses can be presented.  Any affidavit expected to be considered by the Court shall be served on the other party at least five (5) days (excluding Saturday, Sunday and Holidays) before the trial.  A responsive affidavit may be presented at the trial.  Copies of such affidavits must be made available to the other party before the trial commences. A simple “signed statement” will not be considered an affidavit and will not be accepted as evidence.  The same rules apply at this hearing as applied at the first appearance if the parties fail to appear.

Continuance of Mediation or Trial
The party requesting a continuance must contact the other party who must also agree to the continuance. Both parties must contact the Court in person or by telephone.  If one party will not agree to the continuance, the party seeking the continuance may make a written motion for continuance and set a hearing date prior to the scheduled mediation or trial date.  The motion and notice of hearing must be served on the opposing party at least five days prior to the date set for the motion to continue.  At the hearing, the judge will determine whether the matter will be continued.  If there are less than five days prior to the mediation or trial date to serve the opposing party, the party requesting the continuance may contact the Court to explain the circumstances which require the mediation or trial to be continued.  The matter may be continued by the Court upon showing of good cause.

What Happens At The Trial?
When you arrive at the Court, report to the District Court clerk’s office. When your case is called in the courtroom, come forward and the judge will swear in all the parties and witnesses.  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 to the best of your knowledge.

Be polite, not just to the judge, but also to your opponent. Do not interrupt. Whatever happens, keep your temper. Good manners and an even temper help the fair, efficient conduct of the trial and make a good impression.

How Do I Collect My Money?
A money judgment in your favor does not necessarily mean that the money will be paid. The Small Claims Court does not collect the judgment for you.  If no appeal is taken and the judgment is not paid within 30 days, or the time set by the Court in the payment plan, you may request (in writing) that the judgment be transferred into the civil docket of the Court.  At that time you may proceed with a method of collection such as garnishment of wages, bank accounts, and other monies of the defendant or an execution may be issued on cars, boats, or other personal property of the judgment debtor.  Remember, the clerks are prohibited by law from providing you legal advice. You may need the assistance of an attorney or collection agency at this point.  In the alternative, upon payment of $20.00, you will receive a transcript of judgment which you can file in the Superior Court for a fee of $15.00.  Other fees may be required by the Superior Court Clerk or County Auditor. When this is done, it places a lien against all real estate in the name of the judgment debtor that is located in the county.  When the judgment has been paid in full you must send written notice to the District Court that the judgment has been satisfied.

If You Want to Appeal a Decision
No party may appeal a judgment where the amount claimed is less than $250.  An appeal must be filed within 30 days of the entry of the judgment and all required fees must be paid at that time.

Can You Appeal A Case If You Lose?
The party who files a claim or counterclaim cannot appeal unless the amount claimed exceeds $1,000. No party may appeal a judgment where the amount claimed is less than $250.  If an appeal is taken to the Superior Court, the appealing party is required to follow the procedures set out in Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 12.36. The following steps must be taken within 30 days of the entry of judgment:

  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 acknowledgment or affidavit of service in District Court.

  3. Deposit at the District Court the $200 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.

  4. Post a bond in a sum equal to twice the amount of judgment and costs, or twice the amount in controversy, whichever is greater, (cash or surety) made payable to Clerk at the District Court.

When the appeal and bond are transferred to Superior Court, the appellant (person appealing the decision) may request that 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 designated by the appealing party to the Superior Court Clerk 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 the Superior Court for further instructions.

Once the judgment has been appealed to the Superior Court, enforcement of any judgments entered in the case will be handled in Superior Court in the same manner as any other Superior Court judgment.



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