“Small claims court is a department of the district court. It is meant to be a quick, inexpensive way to resolve disputes about money that you have been unable to work out on your own. In small claims court, you may sue another person, a business, or — in some cases — the government for up to $5,000. Lawyers usually may not participate. There are no juries, motions, or objections. The person who sues pays only a small fee for filing the lawsuit. You may get a trial much sooner than in other courts. Most trials are short, about 20 minutes, but you may have to wait while other cases are heard. Small claims court is meant to be easy for everyone to use. “ –Northwest Justice League Small Claims Court in Washington State, 2011
All Pierce County District Court Mediators are certified professional volunteers of Center for Dialog and Resolution.
GOAL OF MEDIATION
The primary goal is for the parties to work out a solution that is fair and reasonable. This will save the parties additional time, money and stress and allow them to control the outcome rather than a Judge making the decision.
- The Mediation meeting date is set by the court and is mandatory.
- Small Claims Mediations occur at the courthouse.
- The parties must agree to mediate in good faith.
- The rules of common courtesy are required during mediation.
- Nothing is decided unless both parties mutually agree to it.
The mediation will last approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
- The mediator will make an opening statement.
- Each party will, in turn, explain their point of view to the mediator.
- The mediator will assist the parties in negotiating a resolution.
- The mediator may help generate options for settlement.
- If agreement is reached, the mediator will write up the resolution.
- The agreement is binding on the parties.
What happens if an agreement is reached:
The mediator will write the agreement language into a binding and enforceable contract which will settle the differences between the parties.
The paperwork is filed with the court.
- Once the terms of the agreement are fulfilled, the case is dismissed.
- There is no public record of your case.
What happens if an agreement is NOT reached:
A trial date will be set for you. A trial is a matter of public record. On that date a Judge will decide the outcome. The decision will be based on three things. The Judge will:
- Apply the law to the facts.
- Consider the evidence you present.
- May use Judicial discretion to decide the outcome
The trial Judge will expect your case to be prepared and presented in an efficient and convincing manner. Success in the courtroom may depend on how well you prepare and present your case.
Recommendations for trial preparation include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Prepare the legal grounds you will base your claim on.
- Prepare the defense you will present to the Judge.
- Prepare a timeline of the relevant facts and events that support your position.
- Prepare all evidence in order of factual events and number the pages.
DAY OF TRIAL
The Plaintiff must prove the Defendant is legally responsible and prove the amount of damages. The person that files the claim, or counterclaim, has the burden of proof. The standard of proof is based on the “preponderance of evidence.”
- Respectfully observe the rules of the court.
- State your case clearly and in order of the facts.
- Bring three copies of the evidence you will present. One set for yourself, the Judge and the opposing party
**This guide is not intended to be a complete list or legal advice. For more detailed information or to download the paperwork to file a small claim, visit the website of the Pierce County District Court.