dismissal with prejudice | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Courts

In legal terms, dismissal with prejudice is a court action that completely closes a case, prohibiting an identical lawsuit from being filed in the future.

To fully grasp what dismissal with prejudice means, it’s important to understand how the court system operates. When a lawsuit is filed, the court takes on the case, and the legal process begins. However, not all cases proceed to a verdict. Sometimes, for various reasons, a case is dismissed.

Dismissal with prejudice is a specific type of dismissal. When a case is dismissed with prejudice, it represents a final decision by the court. It’s like the court saying, “This case is over and done, and it can’t be brought back.”

It’s a powerful tool in the legal system because it prevents the same lawsuit from being filed again. This means that the plaintiff, or the party who filed the lawsuit, can’t try to sue the same defendant for the same reasons in the future. Once a case is dismissed with prejudice, it’s closed for good.

Reasons for Dismissal with Prejudice

There are various reasons why a case might be dismissed with prejudice. Often, it happens when a judge decides that the plaintiff has had ample opportunity to present their case and has failed to do so adequately.

It might also occur if the plaintiff repeatedly fails to follow court rules or procedures or if the judge determines that the lawsuit is frivolous, meaning it lacks legal merit or is intended to harass the defendant.

A dismissal with prejudice can also occur if the parties reach a settlement and agree not to pursue the matter further. In this case, the dismissal with prejudice ensures that the issue is resolved once and for all.

Implications of Dismissal with Prejudice

The impact of dismissal with prejudice is significant. Since it prevents the same lawsuit from being filed again, it provides finality and certainty to the defendant.

This is especially important in the legal system because it promotes the efficient use of court resources. If the same lawsuit could be filed over and over again, the courts could become clogged with repetitive cases. Dismissal with prejudice stops this from happening.

However, it’s worth noting that a dismissal with prejudice can be harsh for the plaintiff. If they believe they have a valid claim, a dismissal with prejudice can feel like a door being permanently shut. That’s why courts use this measure carefully, ensuring that it’s the right decision for the situation.

Appeal Following Dismissal with Prejudice

While dismissal with prejudice is final, it doesn’t mean that the plaintiff has no other options. If they believe that the dismissal was unjust, they can appeal the decision to a higher court. The appeals court will then review the case to determine whether the lower court made an error in dismissing the case with prejudice. If the appeals court agrees that an error was made, it may reverse the dismissal and allow the case to proceed.


Dismissal with prejudice is a powerful action that can bring a definitive end to a legal case. It’s a crucial part of the legal system that helps ensure efficiency and finality. However, like all parts of the legal process, it must be used judiciously, with careful consideration of the rights and interests of all parties involved.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/16/2023

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