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Small claims - District Court

Learn more about filing for small claims in District Court.

Washington State law allows you to file a small claims case only for recovery of money owed to you. Learn more at Washington State Courts Small Claims Court.

About small claims

  • Not all small claims may be brought in King County District Court. Refer to RCW 3.66.040 for details on the appropriate venue.
  • You cannot sue the State of Washington or any of its departments or divisions in District Court.
  • While you may consult with an attorney in advance, attorneys and paralegls are not allowed to represent you in court in most small claims cases, without the permission of the Court. (RCW 12.40.080)

Who can sue and be sued

Small claims is for the recovery of money.  If your small claims suit is for something other than the recovery of money, it may be dismissed by the judge.

Any individual may file a small claims suit.

  • Small claims filed by a “natural person” (a human individual) are limited to no more than $10,000.
  • Small claims filed by anyone other than a “natural person” (may be a business, partnership, or corporation in many cases) are limited to no more than $5,000.

In either instance, your claim will be limited to the amount you request in the Notice of Small Claim.

Only the person who is owed the money can file the small claim case. You cannot ask someone else to file a small claim for you.

Cost of filing

You must pay the Court a $50 filing fee when you file your small claim.

You may have some additional fees payable to the sheriff or process server to have the Notice of Small Claim served on the defendant. Or, you may serve notice on the defendant by registered or certified mail, return receipt mailing.

Our Small Claims Packet - Plaintiff contains information on how to serve the defendant.

If you win your small claim case, you are entitled to recover the filing fee and the cost of service, as allowed by state law.

When to file

Statutes of limitations for small claims cases vary depending on the type of claim. (RCW 4.16) Consult an attorney.

File a small claims case

You can file your small claims case with District Court in 1 of 3 ways:

  1. In person
  2. Online
  3. By mail

After you file a small claim suit

Some District Court locations may require you to participate in mediation prior to trial. Mediations are conducted online or by telephone. If you do not settle your claim at mediation, you will be scheduled for an in-person trial.

More information on mediation is in the Small Claims Packet - Plaintiff .

Small claims trial

Small claims trials are conducted in person. At trial you will present evidence of your claim. Digital evidence must be presented on your own device equipped with an HDMI port and copy for the Court. For more information, refer to Instructions for Evidence - Small Claims.

If you are the defendant in a small claims matter, refer to Small Claims Packet - Defendant.

Collecting your money on a small claims judgment

If a judge finds in your favor in a small claims case, you will need to take steps to collect the money from the defendant. The Court will not collect the money for you. More information is available on the Washington State Courts How do I collect my money? page.

Appeal a small claims decision

The party who filed a claim or counterclaim cannot appeal unless the claim was for more than $1,000. No party may appeal a judgment in which the claim was for less than $250.

If a small claim appeal is taken to Superior Court, the appealing party follows statutory procedures (RCW 12.36).

The following steps must be taken within 30 days of the entry of judgment:

  • Fill out forms and file with District Court

  • Serve a copy of that Notice on the other parties

    You must also file acknowledgment or affidavit of service in District Court.

  • Pay the filing fee

    Provide to District Court, a cashier’s check for $230, payable to the Clerk of the Superior Court. This is for the Superior Court filing fee, which District Court cannot waive.

  • Post bond

    Post with District Court a bond in a sum equal to twice the amount of the judgment and costs, or twice the amount in controversy, whichever is greater. This should be in the form of a cashier’s check made payable to Clerk of the Superior Court. This is a Superior Court requirement that District Court cannot waive.

    When the appeal and bond are transferred to Superior Court, the appealing party may request that Superior Court suspend enforcement of the judgment until after the appeal is heard.

  • Pay our preparation processing fee

    Pay a $40 appeal preparation processing fee made payable to King County District Court. Upon payment of this fee, the Court will certify the record and forward it to Superior Court. The appeal will be considered on the record from King County District Court.