What Is a Dismissal With Prejudice?

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  • Written By: Jodee Redmond
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 March 2014
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In civil litigation, dismissal with prejudice can take a couple of different forms. Once a case has been brought to court and a judgment has been made, the matter is concluded, or dismissed. The term "with prejudice" indicates the court cannot be asked to rule on the same issues again.

This is a similar legal doctrine to double jeopardy in a criminal case. In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and some other jurisdictions, a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice. Once the individual has been found not guilty, the matter effectively forms a dismissal with prejudice.

The other form that this type of dismissal can take is when a civil case is dismissed by a judge on those terms. The judge effectively stops the plaintiff, who is the person claiming they suffered a loss or injury, from starting another lawsuit based on the same incident, or cause of action. The parties to the legal action may agree to a voluntary dismissal with prejudice if they settled the matter before it got in front of a judge.

A dismissal without prejudice is a different matter. Like a dismissal with prejudice, the legal action is finished. When this type of dismissal occurs, the plaintiff in the matter can bring a lawsuit before the court based on the same cause of action later if he or she chooses to do so.


It is to the plaintiff's advantage to agree to a dismissal without prejudice if the defendant agrees to settle the matter before it goes to court. If the defendant does not comply with the terms of the settlement by not paying money or performing duties as agreed to in a contract, the plaintiff has the option of suing the defendant again over the original issue. If the parties had agreed to a dismissal with prejudice, then the plaintiff is legally barred from bringing the original issue before the court later.

The question of whether to agree to a dismissal with prejudice or one without prejudice is something that each party to a lawsuit needs to consider carefully. Getting expert legal advice from an attorney will help to make the options clearer. If the lawsuit goes to court and a judgment is handed down, the matter is considered a dismissal with prejudice. When it is settled out of court, the plaintiff is better protected if the action is dismissed without prejudice.


Discuss this Article

Post 3

@letshearit - Unfortunately if it states "dismissal without prejudice", versus "dismissal with prejudice", it means that they can reopen the case at a later date.

This may be a case where they have decided to let things go because they had the wrong person or something, but just in case, they want to keep the possibility alive that they could pursue legal action in the future. In any case, I would keep the letter.

Post 2

If you receive a notice from a credit card company that a case has been dismissed without prejudice, does this mean you definitely do not have to worry anymore?

Should I keep the letter on file for any future contact with the credit card company as proof that they have decided to forgo any additional action against me?

I really would like to have peace of mind that this is all indeed settled and I can get on with life.

Post 1

If a case has been finished and dismissal with prejudice determined, does new evidence override the effect of this ruling? Or is this an end of the line type of ruling that means there is absolutely no chance of the issue ever seeing the light of a courtroom again?

I am curious if a good lawyer would be able to help retry an issue, with new evidence, if they change the terminology of the case and present it from a different angle.

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