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What You Should Know About Cowlitz County's Courts

Posted by William K. Thayer | Nov 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

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Cowlitz County’s courthouse is located at 312 SW First Avenue in Kelso, Washington, about 50 minutes up the Interstate 5 freeway from Portland, Oregon. Construction of it was completed in 1975. The Hall of Justice overlooks the Cowlitz River.

This blog is a continuation of a series published earlier entitled, “What You Should Know about Clark County's Courts”.  As such, here I won't repeat the basic attributes of Washington state Small Claims, District Courts, and Superior Courts, nor reiterate the essential details of the Washington MAR system.  Rather, this blog will address differences that are unique to Cowlitz County's courts.  To read about the basic functions of the three courts which are consistent from one county Washington state court to the next, you may click here to start with the initial blog of this series, which describes Clark County's courts.   

Also, as I did in the Clark County Courts blog, I'll begin this one with several necessary disclaimers: This blog won't endeavor to address the tactics of making a choice as to which court within Cowlitz County's court system would be best for the filing of any given tort claim.  Likewise, this blog won't cover venue or jurisdiction considerations.  Finally, it won't address federal court options.  Rather, this blog will merely offer some basic information about the three Cowlitz County state court divisions that provide different filing options for persons pursuing a monetary recovery with regard to a tort claim.

For perspective purposes, Cowlitz County's population is about one fourth that of Clark County, Washington, and only about one eight that of Multnomah County, Oregon.

Small Claims Court: As the Clark County Courts blog noted, Washington's small claims division has a jurisdictional limit of $10,000 applicable to “natural persons” filing their case; however, corporations and other non-person entities are subject to a limit of just $5,000.  In Cowlitz County, the Small Claims Court filing fee is $35.  To initiate a Cowlitz County Small Claims Court action, you may go on the Cowlitz County website and search for the form under “small claims form”, or pick up a paper version of the form at the counter in Cowlitz County District Court.

Cowlitz County District Court: Like in Clark County, the jurisdictional limits for Cowlitz County District Court are $100,000.  There are, as of the date of this blog's publication, three Cowlitz County District Court judges, and the “new case” filing fee in Cowlitz County District Court for tort and contract claims is $73. 

Cowlitz County Superior Court: Like in Clark County, there are no jurisdictional limits for filing a case in Cowlitz County Superior Court; that is, any monetary amount may be sought.  There are, as of the date of this blog's publication, five Cowlitz County Superior Court judges, but the court also relies on some seven Court Commissioners as well.  The “new case” filing fee (including a judicial surcharge) in Cowlitz County Superior Court for tort and contract claims is $240.

MAR: Cowlitz County's Superior Court has an MAR program which operates similarly to that of Clark County Superior Court.  Again, cases may only be transferred into mandatory arbitration if the party seeking relief is willing to limit the amount of damages being sought to $100,000 or less. The Cowlitz County Superior Court fee to transfer a case into MAR is $220.

Appeals: Appeals from Cowlitz County Superior Court are taken to the Court of Appeals, Division II, just as they are from Clark County Superior Court.

If you have any questions about which court to file your case in, seeking the advice of an experienced attorney familiar with the courts under consideration would be a wise thing to do.

Cowlitz County District Court contact information:

(360) 577-3073

https://www.co.cowlitz.wa.us/186/District-Court

Cowlitz County Superior Court contact information:

(360) 577-3016

https://www.co.cowlitz.wa.us/158/Clerk-of-Superior-Court

About the Author

William K. Thayer

Bill Thayer is one of the founding partners of the Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards law firm. Bill is licensed in both Oregon and Washington, and has been practicing law since 1980. Bill advises and represents clients in personal injury and wrongful death claims and litigation, including automobile collision, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian injury and death cases, dog bite cases, construction site injury claims, and a myriad of other types of injury and death claims. While many claims are settled through negotiation or mediation, Mr. Thayer has litigated, arbitrated and/or tried to verdict many cases for his clients. He is also frequently appointed by courts and other lawyers to serve as an arbitrator of tort claims. Bill enjoys writing as one of his varied recreational interests when he is not working.

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