A Seattle landlord who represented himself in an eviction case had his case dismissed and the tenant was awarded $6,450 in attorney fees. The landlord used an old summons form missing important clauses and that had a defective return date.
The landlord argued on appeal that the tenant did not raise the issue of the defective summons in his answer to the complaint. There were ultimately three hearings in the trial court. It was not until the second hearing that the court ruled on the summons.
The landlord argued that the tenant waived the issue and that the court “accepted” the summons at the first hearing.
On appeal the Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, but reversed the award of fees. The Court noted that it is well established that where a court is without subject matter jurisdiction, it cannot be conferred by consent, waiver, or estoppel. There was no indication in the record that the commissioner in the first hearing addressed the issue of whether the summons was defective. The commissioner’s only determination was that landlord’s proof of service was improper.
The Court held that once the trial court found the summons defective and correctly dismissed the case there was no subject matter jurisdiction to do anything else.
This case is a good illustration of why it is often cheaper and easier to use an attorney from the beginning.
 Rust v. W. Wash. State College, 11 Wn. App. 410, 419, 523 P.2d 204 (1974); Hous. Auth. of Everett v. Kirby, 154 Wn. App. at 850.
 Lange v. Whelan, No. 63928-5-I (UNPUBLISHED OPINION, filed: June 1, 2010).