What is a Non-Suit?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A non-suit is the termination of a civil case in situations where the plaintiff fails to present information or abandons the case. The judge can enter a ruling against the plaintiff in such cases and damages will be awarded, but the case has not been decided on its merits. Not all legal systems provide a mechanism for this type of ruling, but in those that do, it provides a method for penalizing people who bring suit and then abandon their suits or fail to present compelling evidence in front of the judge.

There are many situations in which it's appropriate for a judge to declare a case a non-suit.
There are many situations in which it's appropriate for a judge to declare a case a non-suit.

There are several situations where it may be appropriate for a judge to determine that a case is a non-suit. In a voluntary non-suit, plaintiffs withdraw charges, and the case is considered concluded. This may happen as the result of a settlement. In some of these instances, no ruling is made against the plaintiff, and the plaintiff does not have to pay damages.

A non-suit may occur if an agreement is reached in mediation.
A non-suit may occur if an agreement is reached in mediation.

In other types of non-suits, plaintiffs either abandon the case after filing it by not showing up in court or responding to communications from the court, or they appear in court, but do not provide appropriate evidence. If a judge reviews the evidence and determines that nothing points to the defendant, it can be determined a non-suit. The plaintiff may be ordered to pay damages to the defendant for lost time and money, in addition to the damage to the defendant's reputation. In all of these cases, because the court never hears compelling evidence and reviews it, the case has not been decided on its merits, but rather on a technicality.

In the court record, the outcome of the case will be recorded as a non-suit. It may show up in background checks and research into a person's legal history. A history of non-suits may make someone a target of suspicion, as there may be a belief that the person is bringing suits to be a nuisance or to cause problems for the targets of those suits.

Most legal systems have measures in place to limit nuisance or nonsense suits, with the goal of saving time, money, and energy for the legal system, and preventing people from using legal suits as a method for harassment. When people are preparing to file suits, they will need to file supporting paperwork and pay fees to show their commitment to seeing the case through in court. If the case turns out to be frivolous in nature, as with some non-suits, there will be legal penalties.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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

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Discussion Comments


I used to be a professional singer, and I signed a contract with my manager. After a year of failed attempts at success and no paying gigs, I told him I wanted to quit.

He threatened to sue me for all the money he could have made off of me if I had become famous. I said that no court in the world would reward him for that, because it couldn't be proven that I ever would have made it.

Nevertheless, he took me to court. I had a lawyer who was ready to totally debunk his claims, but he never showed up that day. I suppose he had come to the realization that he had no basis for his case.

The judge called it a non-suit, and I went on my way. I was greatly relieved, even though I didn't believe that I would end up owing him anything.


My friend has a reputation for suing people, and she seems to really believe she has grounds for a lawsuit each time. She has only won one case, and after the court started to see a pattern, her suits lost any merit.

She recently tried to sue someone for hitting her car and causing her permanent injuries. She wore a neck brace in front of her lawyer, as well as to court that day. However, she could not present medical evidence of permanent damage, so the case was declared a non-suit.

I have a feeling that she will be barred from suing anyone else because of this non-suit and her frequent attempts to get money out of people. If anyone has gained a reputation for being a nuisance, it is her.

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