Does an interrogatory response count as a pleading affecting RCW 4.84.250 - 4.84.270?

Posted Monday, January 14, 2013 by Ed Harper

The legislature has articulated a statute allowing for attorney fees if an amount less than $10,000 has been pleaded. This statute is for the sole purpose to encourage settlement of these smaller cases, and to punish the “losers” or non-prevailing party. However, one must be aware of the effect of discovery responses which ask for an amount greater than $10,000 and the limitation this may have on seeking attorney fees later.

In a recent case, Pierson v. Hernandez 149 Wn.App.297 (Div.3 2009) the court stated an interrogatory response was the equivalent of a pleading. Plaintiff responded to an interrogatory with an amount in excess of $10,000 regarding the damages sought in this claim. The amount sought in response to the interrogatory totaled $31,000+.

Thus, even though subsequent offers of settlement were offered to the defendant for less than $10,000, and the verdict was greater than one of these offers, the court stated the plaintiff had not pleaded an amount less than $10,000, and thus the attorney fee provision of RCW 4.84.260 did not apply.

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