There has been some confusion regarding the effective date of the new MAR limits, where counties have raised them to $100,000 pursuant to the 2018 amendments. The new statute clearly states the new limits “applies to all cases filed on or after September 1, 2018.” We have heard, however, that some attorneys, and possibly judges, might interpret the statute differently, and state that it applies to all new MAR filings (ie the Notice of Arbitrability) filed after 9/1/18.
Feltman Ewing Attorneys have already had a couple of PI attorneys argue the new limits apply immediately, and yesterday our office spoke to the court administrator of Benton/Franklin County, and he informed our office that they were of the opinion the new limits applied to any MAR transfer after 9/1/18.
For those of you who are facing this similar situation, we have done some additional review of the past legislative history, and believe the following argument forecloses on the interpretation of immediate raising of the limits to any new MAR transfer:
Please see the below from the WA Legislative Website, for the new RCW sections re the effective date of the new MAR limits:
(1) All civil actions, except for appeals from municipal or district courts, which are at issue in the superior court in counties which have authorized arbitration, where the sole relief sought is a money judgment, and where no party asserts a claim in excess of fifteen thousand dollars, or if approved by the superior court of a county by two-thirds or greater vote of the judges thereof, up to one hundred thousand dollars, exclusive of interest and costs, are subject to civil arbitration.
(2) If approved by majority vote of the superior court judges of a county which has authorized arbitration, all civil actions which are at issue in the superior court in which the sole relief sought is the establishment, termination, or modification of maintenance or child support payments are subject to mandatory arbitration. The arbitrability of any such action shall not be affected by the amount or number of payments involved.
Rules of court: MAR 1.2.
Applicability—Effective date—2018 c 36: See notes following RCW 7.06.043.
Application—2005 c 472 § 2: “Section 2 of this act applies to any case in which a notice of arbitrability is filed on or after July 24, 2005.” [ 2005 c 472 § 3.]
Effective date—1987 c 212 §§ 101 and 102: “Sections 101 and 102 of this act shall take effect July 1, 1988.” [ 1987 c 212 § 1902.]
Intent—1987 c 202: See note following RCW 2.04.190.
The arbitrator shall set the time, date, and place of the hearing and shall give reasonable notice of the hearing date to the parties. Except by stipulation or for good cause shown, the hearing shall be scheduled to take place not sooner than twenty-one days, nor later than seventy-five days, from the date of the assignment of the case to the arbitrator. The hearing shall take place in appropriate facilities provided or authorized by the court.
Applicability—2018 c 36: “This act applies to all cases filed on or after September 1, 2018.” [ 2018 c 36 § 8.]
Effective date—2018 c 36: “This act takes effect September 1, 2018.” [ 2018 c 36 § 9.]
The new language of RCW 7.06.020 (see yellow highlight) refers to RCW 7.06.043 for the effective date of the new 2018 legislation. Section 7.06.043 cites the new statute, which in section 8 stated it applies to all cases filed on or after September 1, 2018. Most attorneys read this as clearly referring to the original filing of the case/lawsuit.
Some attorneys or judges might read the language of the effective date as possibly referring to the filing of the statement of arbitrability, or the transfer of the case into MAR. This interpretation is clearly foreclosed by the language above in green highlights. This was the effective date language for the 2005 amendments to the MAR, when the legislature increased the limits to $50,000. In 2005, the legislature made the new changes effective specifically to the filing of the notice of arbitrability, so the use of contrary language, referring to the actual case filing, must clearly NOT mean the transfer of the case to MAR.
All attorneys are welcome to utilize this analysis and argument to convenience other attorneys, judges, and court administrators that the new limits only applies to new cases filings after 9/1/18.