There are a lot of facts in MHM&F, LLC v. Edward Pryor, Jr. (Division 1, May 21, 2012), but none of them really matter. The short story: Pryor owed money on a mobile home space, he didn’t pay, so the plaintiff filed an unlawful detainer action against him. Pryor lost.
On appeal, Pryor raised two issues that he failed to raise in the trial court: (a) that the wording on the summons was defective and (b) that the mobile home association for the group of lots should have been named as a necessary party. Pryor claimed his failure to raise these issues below was not fatal because they both went to the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction.
The Court of Appeals disagreed, despite noting prior cases that used the language of “jurisdiction” when referring to the wording of a summons or the joinder of a necessary party in a mobile home case. “But those cases are incorrectly reasoned on that point” because they “did not consider article IV, section 6 of our constitution.” Nor did they consider more recent cases which have “overruled precedents that erroneously classify the superior court’s jurisdiction as statutory.”
The Washington Supreme Court has “observed that the improvident and inconsistent use of the term ‘subject matter jurisdiction’ has caused it to be confused with a court’s authority to rule in a particular manner.” “Whether the superior court ruled correctly or incorrectly in this particular case, it did not lack subject matter jurisdiction. The court’s subject matter jurisdiction in cases involving the title or possession of real property is expressly granted by the state constitution and has not been ‘vested exclusively in some other court.’” (quoting Wash. Const. art. IV, sec. 6.)