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Small Claims

TO INITIATE A SMALL CLAIMS ACTION:

  • A small claims action may be brought for the recovery of money only.  The maximum amount is $5,000.  In general, the claim must be filed in the county of the defendant's residence.

  • You must prepare a small claims form available from this site or in the District Court office.  Complete only the top portion.  Do not sign it until you file it with the court.

  • The form must be filed in the District Court office and a $14 filing fee must be paid.  You can file the claim by mail if your signature is notarized and you send the form with the $14 filing fee.  Your copy and a service copy will be returned to you.

  • The plaintiff must have the claim served on the defendant at least 10 days prior to the answer date.  Service may be done by:  The Sheriff's office, a process server, a person of legal age not connected with the case, or by certified mail, restricted delivery with a return receipt requested. You must file proof of service with the court.   If you have not received a court date or been contacted by the defendant by the answer date on your small claims form, you may contact the court about requesting a default judgment.  Proof of service must be filed before a default judgment can be granted.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN SERVED WITH A SMALL CLAIMS ACTION:

  • You can make an out-of-court settlement with the plaintiff before the answer date.  The plaintiff must then notify the Court in writing that the case has been dismissed.

  • If you wish to contest all or part of the claim against you, you must file an answer with the Court before the answer date.

  • If you have a claim against the plaintiff, you may file a counterclaim.  You must file the counterclaim with a $14 filing fee at the same time your answer is filed.  

  • If you do not respond by the answer date on the claim form, the plaintiff may be entitled to a default judgment against you.

IF THE JUDGMENT IS NOT PAID:

To request that a transcript of an unpaid small claims judgment be entered into the civil docket of the Cowlitz County District Court please send the attached form with the $20.00 transcript fee.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

For more complete information regarding small claims please visit the "Introduction to Small Claims Court"  


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