Senate unanimously approves Padden bill to increase access to small-claims court

On Thursday the Senate approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden that is aimed at increasing access to small-claims courts, by raising the jurisdiction of the courts from $5,000 to $10,000.

“This is an important update in the jurisdiction of small-claims courts that’s well overdue,” said Padden, the lead Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “Small-claims courts have jurisdiction for disputes of $5,000 or less – a threshold that hasn’t changed in nearly a decade.

“Many people choose to file in small-claims court because they either can’t afford to hire an attorney, or do not want to hire one. Yet when they do that, they may be unable to recover their actual damages. By doubling the amount of allowed damages, this bill would give more Washingtonians access to justice, while also reducing the burden on our other district and superior courts.”

Padden, R-Spokane Valley, served for 12 years as a district court judge and said he was pleased to see bipartisan support for the measure.

A small-claims court is a department of a county’s district court. The hearing and disposition of a small-claims court action are informal and generally the parties are not allowed to be represented by attorneys. The hearing and disposition of small-claims court actions are designed to dispense speedy and quick justice between the litigants.

Senate Bill 5989 was approved by a vote of 49-0, and now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.