Civil Arbitration – The New MAR
by: Alice C. Brown

Section: Secondary Article




Civil Arbitration
On September 1, 2018, the new rules governing civil arbitration went into effect.  This replaces Mandatory Arbitration in most of the more populated counties across the state.  Pursuant to RCW 7.06.010 civil arbitration has automatically replaced mandatory arbitration in counties with a population of more than 100,000.  In counties with a population, less than 100,000 a vote of the majority of the judges or a vote of the county legislative authority is required to authorize these new rules.

$50,000 or $100,000?
What is complicating this change is that, although 7.06.010 went into effect for cases filed on or after September 1, 2018, not all counties have raised the jurisdictional limit to $100,000.  The amended statute is being interpreted to require a vote of two-thirds of the judges to in the county to increase to jurisdictional limit from $50,000. 

New Requirements for Arbitrators
There are also new requirements for arbitrators in many counties.  The rules provide that an arbitrator must be a member of the state bar association who has been admitted for a minimum of five years or who is a retired judge.  It also requires an arbitrator to complete a minimum of three credits of Washington State Bar Association approved CLE credits on professional and ethical considerations for serving as an arbitrator.  The person serving as an arbitrator must file a declaration or affidavit stating or certifying to the appointing court that he is in compliance with this section.

Hearing – Time, Date and Place
Under the rules, the hearing shall take place not sooner than 21 days or later than 75 days from the date of assignment of the case to an arbitrator.

Discovery
Discovery under the new rules is severely limited.  A party may:
1) Request from the arbitrator an examination under CR 35
2) Request admissions from a party under CR 36; and
3) take the deposition of another party.
A party may request additional discovery from the arbitrator, including interrogatories, and the arbitrator will allow additional discovery only as reasonably necessary.

De Novo Appeal
1) A request for a trial de novo must be filed within 20 days and the “notice must be signed by the party.”
Who Plans to Increase the Jurisdictional Limit – as of the date these counties were contacted the following counties intended to increase the limit. 

Attorneys are encouraged to contact any county where a case has been moved into civil arbitration to determine which rules apply.
Counties that Do Not Currently Have Civil Arbitration
  • Adams                                       Kittitas                   
  • Asotin                                        Lincoln
  • Columbia                                   Pacific
  • Douglas                                     Pend Oreille
  • Ferry                                          San Juan
  • Garfield                                      Stevens
  • Gray’s Harbor                             Walla Walla
  • Island                                          Whitman
  • Jefferson
Counties Increasing to $100,000 Effective September 1, 2018
  • Benton                                      Yakima
  • Chelan                                       Spokane
  • Clark                                           Skamania
  • Cowlitz (hasn’t yet completed process)
  • Grant                                         Klickitat
  • Kitsap
  • Mason
  • Okanogan
  • Thurston
Counties That Have Not Yet Increased the Jurisdictional Limit to $100,000
  • Clallam
  • King (will increase to $100,000 but no date set)
  • Lewis
  • Pierce
  • Snohomish (is expected to increase)
  • Whatcom – no word on what they will do