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What is a Dismissal Without Prejudice?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A dismissal without prejudice is a dismissal of a legal case that permits the plaintiff to bring the claim again, unlike a dismissal with prejudice, in which the matter is considered final. There are a number of reasons for a case to be dismissed without prejudice, including on the plaintiff's request or because the judge feels that the plaintiff cannot prove the case. For defendants, it is important to be aware that this type of dismissal carries some risks because it leaves them exposed to the possibility that another case will be filed.

In legal terms, “prejudice” has to do with rights and privileges. In this case, it indicates that the privileges and rights of the plaintiff are not waived, truncated, or terminated. This allows the plaintiff to refile in the future, if this is desired. When a judge dismisses with prejudice, it indicates that the right to bring suit again on the same claim has been terminated and the dismissal is final.

Sometimes, a plaintiff will request a dismissal without prejudice to allow him to refile the case. Another reason to actively request this type of dismissal might be if the plaintiff and the defendant can reach a settlement, which would make the legal case unnecessary. Judges may also determine that there are problems with the case that merit a dismissal. Cases can be dismissed before they even start, or at any point during the presentation of the case in court.

When a case is dismissed without prejudice because a settlement has been reached, it leaves the possibility of refiling open. This is to the advantage of the plaintiff because it means that, if the other party fails to uphold the terms of the agreement, the plaintiff can bring the case back to court. In this case, the plaintiff would file a motion for a dismissal, which would likely be granted after the reaching of a settlement had been demonstrated.

On the other hand, judges will dismiss with prejudice when they feel that the matter can be taken no further, even with a refiling. If the plaintiff filed a nuisance suit, failed to abide by the rules of the court, or acted in bad faith, the judge will be more likely to dismiss with prejudice so that the case cannot be taken before a court again. Once dismissed with prejudice, the issue is considered settled in the eyes of the law, no matter how the parties to the suit might feel.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon306505 — On Nov 30, 2012

A voluntary dismissal with the right to refile the case is good for the plaintiff. The case will be amended and refiled in a perfect manner to finally win in court. Sometimes it gets dismissed to rid the case of persons no longer class members.

By anon157519 — On Mar 03, 2011

I'm glad my granddaughter was only four when she told the judge what happened. she told what her dad wife did to her but then got scared. the bad part is CYS wouldn't help the child so now if it happens again, it can go back to court.

By rosoph — On Feb 04, 2011

It's a good thing that the request for dismissal without prejudice exists. I know that if I were the plaintiff in a case, and maybe we had agreed on a settlement, I would want the option to bring the claim again. You never know if the other person is going to come through on their part of the settlement.

By reader888 — On Feb 01, 2011

How interesting! I always thought that once a case was dismissed, it was over forever. You know, the whole can't be tried twice for the same crime thing. I guess it's a bit different in cases that aren't necessarily criminal in nature.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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