State of Washington
65th Legislature
2017 Regular Session
By Representatives Buys and Blake
Read first time 01/12/17. Referred to Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources.
AN ACT Relating to dispute resolution between seed buyers and dealers; amending RCW 15.49.071 and 15.49.091; and repealing RCW 15.49.081, 15.49.101, and 15.49.111.
Sec. 1.  RCW 15.49.071 and 2005 c 433 s 36 are each amended to read as follows:
(1) When a buyer is damaged by the failure of any seed covered by this chapter to produce or perform as represented by the required label, by warranty, or as a result of negligence, the buyer, as a prerequisite to maintaining a legal action against the dealer of such seed, shall have first provided for the ((arbitration)) mediation of the claim. Any statutory period of limitations with respect to such claim shall be tolled from the date ((arbitration)) mediation proceedings are instituted until ten days after the date on which the ((arbitration award becomes final)) mediation proceedings are concluded. Mediation proceedings are instituted from the date the buyer mails the dealer the buyer's complaint with its request to engage in mediation as provided under RCW 15.49.091.
(2) ((Similarly, no such claim may be asserted as a counterclaim or defense in any action brought by a dealer against a buyer until the buyer has first provided for arbitration of the claim. Upon the buyer's filing of a written notice of intention to assert such a claim as a counterclaim or defense in the action accompanied by a copy of the buyer's complaint in arbitration filed as provided in this chapter, the action shall be stayed, and any applicable statute of limitations shall be tolled with respect to such claim from the date arbitration proceedings are instituted until ten days after the arbitration award becomes final.
(3))) Conspicuous language calling attention to the requirement for ((arbitration)) mediation under this section shall be referenced or included on the analysis label required under ((RCW 15.49.011 through 15.49.101)) this chapter.
(((4) If the parties agree to submit the claim to arbitration and to be bound by the arbitration award, then the arbitration shall be subject to chapter 7.04A RCW, and RCW 15.49.081 through 15.49.111 will not apply to the arbitration. If the parties do not so agree, then the buyer may provide for mandatory arbitration by the arbitration committee under RCW 15.49.081 through 15.49.111. An award rendered in such mandatory arbitration shall not be binding upon the parties and any trial on any claim so arbitrated shall be de novo.
(5))) (3) This section applies only to claims, or counterclaims, where the relief sought is, or includes, a monetary amount in excess of ((two)) five thousand dollars. All claims for ((two)) five thousand dollars or less ((shall)) may be commenced in either district court or small claims court.
(4) The mediation provisions under this section apply only to a dealer subject to this state's jurisdiction in relation to the buyer's claims.
Sec. 2.  RCW 15.49.091 and 1989 c 354 s 79 are each amended to read as follows:
(1) To submit a claim ((to mandatory arbitration)) for mediation, the buyer shall make and file ((with the department)) a sworn complaint against the dealer alleging the damages sustained. The sworn complaint may take the form of a declaration or affidavit. The buyer shall send a copy of the complaint to the dealer by United States registered mail. ((The filing fee shall be submitted to the department with each complaint filed and may be recovered from the dealer or other seller upon recommendations of the arbitration committee.))
(2) Within twenty days after receipt of a copy of the complaint, the dealer shall file with the ((department)) buyer, by United States registered mail, the answer to the complaint. The answer shall agree to participate in mediation under chapter 7.07 RCW or shall state the dealer's grounds for refusing to engage in such mediation. Failure of a dealer to file a timely answer to the complaint and the request to engage in mediation shall be ((so)) documented for the record supporting the buyer's option to maintain a legal action for its claim against the dealer.
(3) ((The director shall, upon receipt of the answer, refer the complaint and answer to the arbitration committee for investigation, findings, and recommendations.)) The parties shall be equally responsible for the mediator's fees unless otherwise agreed between the parties before retaining the mediator.
(4) ((Any dealer may request an investigation by the arbitration committee for any dispute involving seed which may not otherwise be before the arbitration committee.)) The mediator must be selected by mutual agreement of the parties from mediators qualified to conduct mediations under chapter 7.07 RCW. The mediation must take place within the part of the state where the buyer conducts the buyer's operations unless otherwise agreed between the parties.
NEW SECTION.  Sec. 3.  The following acts or parts of acts are each repealed:
(1) RCW 15.49.081 (ArbitrationFiling feeRules) and 1989 c 354 s 78;
(2) RCW 15.49.101 (Investigation of complaint by arbitration committee) and 2010 c 8 s 6062 & 1989 c 354 s 80; and
(3) RCW 15.49.111 (Arbitration committeeCreationGenerally) and 2010 c 8 s 6063 & 1989 c 354 s 81.
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