The Small Claims Trial
The information contained here is intended to address the most frequently asked questions. It is not comprehensive and should not be construed as legal advice. Those in need of legal advice should consult an attorney.
What Happens At The Trial?
When you arrive at the court, report to the courtroom in which your case has been assigned. A trained mediator will be available to mediate your case through the King County Dispute Resolution Center. This gives both parties an opportunity to negotiate an agreement outside of the formal court system. For information regarding the Dispute Resolution Center, click here (external site). If you do not choose to see a mediator, come forward to the counsel table when your case is called by the judge 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 straight out and 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 even tempers help the fair, efficient conduct of the trial, and make a good impression.
After both sides have been heard by the judge, he or she will normally announce the decision right then and will sign and hand the parties a judgment.
What If My Opponent Does Not appear For Trial?
If the defendant fails to appear for trial, the plaintiff will be granted judgment for the amount of the claim proven in court, plus costs--provided the plaintiff can show proof of service. If the plaintiff fails to appear, the claim is dismissed; however, generally the court will permit the plaintiff to start over, if good cause for the non-appearance is shown.