dismissal without prejudice | Definition

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

In legal terminology, dismissal without prejudice is a court action that stops a current lawsuit but permits it to be brought again later.

To comprehend the concept of dismissal without prejudice, it’s crucial to understand the court system’s workings. When a lawsuit is filed, the court gets involved, and the legal proceedings commence. But not every case makes it to a verdict. Sometimes, a case is dismissed.

A dismissal without prejudice is a specific form of dismissal. When a case is dismissed without prejudice, it means the court has decided to halt the lawsuit, but this doesn’t prevent the plaintiff, the party who filed the lawsuit, from bringing the same case against the same defendant in the future. Essentially, the court is saying, “This case is closed for now, but it might be reopened later.”

Reasons for Dismissal Without Prejudice

There are several reasons why a case might be dismissed without prejudice. One of the most common reasons is that the plaintiff needs to correct something about their lawsuit. For instance, they may have filed the lawsuit in the wrong court, or they may need to correct a mistake in their legal documents. In such cases, the court may dismiss the case without prejudice, giving the plaintiff the opportunity to fix the problem and refile the case.

Another reason might be that the plaintiff decides to withdraw the case, perhaps because they want to gather more evidence or reevaluate their legal strategy. A dismissal without prejudice allows them to bring the case again when they’re ready.

Implications of Dismissal Without Prejudice

A dismissal without prejudice has significant implications. For the plaintiff, it offers a second chance. If they believe they have a valid claim, a dismissal without prejudice allows them to make necessary corrections and bring their case back to court.

However, for the defendant, a dismissal without prejudice might mean an ongoing threat of legal action. They might need to prepare to defend themselves again if the plaintiff decides to refile the case.

Refiling After Dismissal Without Prejudice

An important aspect of dismissal without prejudice is that the plaintiff can refile their case. However, they must do so within a certain period of time, known as the statute of limitations. This period varies depending on the type of lawsuit and the jurisdiction.

If the plaintiff refiling the case doesn’t do so within the statute of limitations, they may lose their right to sue on that matter. Therefore, it’s crucial for the plaintiff to be aware of these time constraints.


In essence, dismissal without prejudice provides a kind of “pause button” for a lawsuit. It stops the legal proceedings for now, but it leaves the door open for the case to be brought back to court in the future. This allows plaintiffs to correct any issues or rethink their strategy, ensuring that their claims can be fairly heard. It’s a valuable tool in the legal system used to promote justice and fair play.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/16/2023

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