Washington Case Law Update: Washington Legislature Expands Mandatory Civil Arbitration to $100,000 Claims

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Washington Case Law Update: Washington Legislature Expands Mandatory Civil Arbitration to $100,000 Claims

From the desk of Kyle D. Riley: Currently, in Washington, civil cases with claims not exceeding $50,000 are subject to mandatory arbitration.  However, Washington’s legislature recently passed a bill that increases the claim limit from $50,000 to $100,000.  The bill was then signed by Washington’s Governor on March 13, 2018.  Read on for a discussion on the new law that is set to govern civil cases filed in Washington on or after September 1, 2018.

Claims Pointer: Effective September 1, 2018, the new legislation on mandatory arbitration will have a sizable impact on Washington’s civil litigation process.  Adjusters should be aware of the new law as it will result in a larger scope of cases being subject to mandatory arbitration.

HB 1128 contains numerous amendments and changes to existing laws.  Two significant changes are that (1) claims up to $100,000 will be subject to Washington’s mandatory arbitration program, and (2) a request for a trial de novo appealing the arbitration award must be signed by the client.  It is important to keep in mind that HB 1128 will only affect cases that are filed on or after September 1, 2018.

One of the more obvious consequences of the new arbitration rule is that the $100,000 claim limit will increase the number of cases subject to mandatory arbitration.  There are several reasons why this change will be disadvantageous to defendant.  First, arbitration awards, especially in King County and surrounding counties tend to be more generous than jury awards.  One of the reasons that arbitration awards tend to vary from jury awards is that the evidentiary rules in arbitrations are much relaxed.  Second, cases in arbitration move on an accelerated timeline with limited discovery and relaxed evidentiary rules.  Parties can serve limited discovery requests and take depositions.  Parties must file a motion...

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