Washington Case Law Update: Statutory Costs Included When Comparing Arbitration Award with Trial Judgment

Attorney Profile Case Update Template - Josh

Washington Case Law Update: Statutory Costs Included When Comparing Arbitration Award with Trial Judgment

From the Desk of Joshua P. Hayward: Following arbitration, if either party is not satisfied with the arbitration award, that party is entitled to request a trial.  If the party that requested trial fails to improve their position at trial, the opposing party is entitled to reasonable attorney fees incurred in litigating the case through trial.  When determining whether a party improved their position at trial, are statutory costs included in the computation? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a car accident, the Washington Supreme Court determined that statutory costs are to be included when comparing the arbitration award with the trial award.  This case is important to consider when deciding whether or not to appeal an arbitration award.  One key point to consider is that the statutory costs after trial are typically a few thousand dollars more than those awarded after the mandatory arbitration.  This effectively means that a defendant will typically need to obtain a damages award a few thousand dollars larger at trial to be considered to have improved their position.  Conversely, using this logic, a plaintiff can request a trial de novo, obtain a damages award equal to or slightly less than the arbitration award, and still be considered to have improved their position.

Bearden v. McGill, 94320-6, Washington Supreme Court (April 12, 2018)

James Bearden (“Plaintiff”) sued Dolphus McGill (“Defendant”) for damages caused by a motor vehicle accident.  At arbitration, Plaintiff was awarded $44,000 in damages, and $1,187 in statutory costs as the prevailing party under RCW 4.84.010, for a total arbitration award of $45,187.  Defendant requested trial, and following the trial, the jury awarded Plaintiff $42,500 in damages and $3,296 in statutory costs, for a total judgment of $45,796.  In other words, Plaintiff...

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