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What Does It Mean When a California Case is Dismissed Without Prejudice?

It is always so easy on TV or in the movies. Without fail, the judge bangs his or her gavel with a flourish and declares, “Case dismissed!” The “winners” celebrate; the “losers” loudly express their disbelief and the judge calls for order.

As civil litigators with considerable experience trying cases in Los Angeles, we know it’s seldom that simple – or that dramatic. In real life, civil suits are dismissed for many reasons. It can happen before, during, and even at the end of a trial (before the case goes to the judge or jury). The circumstances also determine whether the case is dismissed with or without prejudice.

If a case is dismissed with prejudice, no one gets another bite at the apple. The dismissal is final and the plaintiff cannot re-file the complaint. But what does it mean when a case is dismissed without prejudice? That’s the question the skilled attorneys from the Law Office of Parag L Amin, P.C., (LawPLA) tackle in today’s article.

Dismissal of a case without prejudice

When a case is dismissed without prejudice, nothing bars the plaintiff from re-filing the complaint on the same grounds. And, for that matter, nothing bars the plaintiffs from re-filing it in the same court.

As we will see, there are a couple of different ways a case can be dismissed without prejudice. We will also explore the reasons for this type of dismissal.

Methods of dismissal without prejudice

A case can be dismissed without prejudice either voluntarily or involuntarily. Let’s consider the former first.

The former occurs at the plaintiff’s discretion. In other words, the plaintiff makes a formal request to have the matter dismissed without prejudice for one reason or another. Depending on the circumstances, this may be done through their attorney, or simply by completing and filing the applicable paperwork at the same courthouse where they filed the complaint themselves. This generally includes:

  • The Request for Dismissal; and
  • The Notice of Entry of Dismissal and Proof of Service (if necessary)

While voluntary dismissal of a case without prejudice occurs at the plaintiff’s discretion, involuntary dismissal of a case without prejudice is done at the judge’s discretion. In fact, the judge frequently dismisses a case without prejudice even though the plaintiff objects.

Reasons for dismissal without prejudice

The Los Angeles civil litigators at LawPLA know firsthand that there are plenty of reasons for a plaintiff to seek dismissal of a case without prejudice. There are plenty of reasons a judge will decide to take this action as well.

We’ll start by looking at some of the most common reasons for voluntary dismissal of a case without prejudice. In other words, why would a plaintiff want to have his or her case dismissed, while preserving the right to start all over again? Of course the answer depends on the unique circumstances of his or her case. However, this may happen when:  

  • The parties came to an agreement and the plaintiff wants to end the case.
  • The person the plaintiff sued paid you the money he or she owed you.
  • The plaintiff cannot locate the defendant to serve him or her, but wants to reserve the right to sue at a later date.
  • The plaintiff sued several people but since decided he or she only wants to sue one or some of them, and dismiss the case against the others.
  • The plaintiff simply changes his or her mind.

Next, we’ll share some of the reasons a judge would dismiss a case without prejudice. In some cases, this is occurs due to jurisdictional issues. For example, a judge will dismiss a case without prejudice if the court does not have the authority to hear the case, or it does not have authority over the defendant. On the other hand, there may be a question about venue. If it would be better for another court to hear the case, a judge can also have the case dismissed without prejudice. Finally, a judge can take this action if he or she determines the defendant was not served with the complaint.

Of course, there are also instances in which the defendant asks the judge to dismiss the case. This is done by making a formal request, or motion. In the motion, the defendant not only asks the judge to dismiss the case, but also explains why it should be dismissed. The plaintiff also gets a chance to convince the judge that the case shouldn’t be dismissed. If the judge finds the plaintiff’s response has some merit, he or she may then decide to dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning the plaintiff has a chance to correct any errors in their case.

Does the statute of limitations remain in effect if a case is dismissed without prejudice

The statute of limitations is one of the key factors we have to consider when a case is dismissed without prejudice. This is because this deadline for filing a lawsuit remains in effect.

In California, for example, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within two years of the incident. So if a case is dismissed without prejudice, the plaintiff may have a limited amount of time in which to re-file the complaint. Once the two-year deadline expires, so does the plaintiff’s chance of re-filing the complaint.

So clearly, time is of the essence when a case is dismissed without prejudice. If this has happened to you, don’t hesitate. Contact LawPLA today. You can reach us by using the contact page on our website, or by calling one of our conveniently located Los Angeles locations to arrange a consultation now.


PLEASE NOTE: This is not a representation, warranty, or guarantee of a future result or outcome. Every case is different just like every one of our clients.