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How to Drop a Lawsuit
There are several reasons why a plaintiff may decide to voluntarily drop a lawsuit. The most common reasons to drop a lawsuit are when the parties have settled or when the plaintiff has run out of energy or resources to continue the suit. If you decided to drop a lawsuit, you usually must get permission from the court. The court will determine whether or not you will be permitted to file the same case again in the future.
Deciding to Drop Your Lawsuit
Evaluate your resources.Plaintiffs who voluntarily dismiss their own lawsuits often lack the resources to continue. Lawsuits require time, money, and energy, and can tax those resources almost indefinitely. Perhaps you no longer have the time to devote to the suit (or are running out of time to meet an important procedural deadline), or your legal bills have exceeded your expectations, or the stress of the conflict is taking its toll on you. Estimate how much more time, money, and effort it will take to finish the case and decide accordingly.
- If you are represented by an attorney, he or she may be willing to re-negotiate your fee agreement rather than lose your business and the case.
- Keep in mind that you may not be permitted to refile your case for the purpose of circumventing deadlines you missed, such as identifying new witnesses after the witness disclosure deadline passed.
Consider settlement.If you have not already reached a settlement, you may be able to use a voluntary dismissal as a bargaining chip to incentivize the defendant to make some kind of payment or drop a counter-suit. The defendant does not have to know that don’t want to continue the suit, so before you voluntarily dismiss your case, contact the defendant with another settlement offer.
- If the defendant has filed a counter-suit, you can propose that both parties drop their claims and go their separate ways.
- If you make a final low settlement offer to the defendant, you may be able to at least recoup your expenses.
Assess the consequences.When you ask the court to dismiss your case, the court will dismiss it either “with prejudice” or “without prejudice.” Prejudice means that you are not allowed to re-file the same case in the future. As the plaintiff, you want to preserve the right to re-file, so you should ask the court to dismiss your case without prejudice. But in the interests of fairness, the judge may dismiss with prejudice to finalize the outcome in favor of the defendant, who might otherwise be left open to be sued again in the future.
- If you dismiss your case, the defendant may ask the court to order that you pay the defendant’s costs of preparing to defend, such as attorney fees, filing fees, expert witness fees, and deposition expenses.
- If you have settled with the defendant, and the defendant will be paying you in installments, you can usually request a dismissal without prejudice. Then, if the defendant fails to make all of the payments, you can re-file your case.
Filing a Request for Dismissal
Locate the correct forms.Each state uses different forms for requests for dismissal. Contact the court clerk or search online at the court’s website to find out what forms you need to complete to request a voluntary dismissal of your case. Commonly used types of forms include:
- A request or motion for dismissal or discontinuance;
- Notice to the other parties of the dismissal or discontinuance;and
- A blank proposed order for the judge to sign.
Fill out the request form.You will use this form to ask the court to dismiss your case.Fill in your personal information and identifying information about your case. Check the appropriate box (if applicable) to ask that the court dismiss the case without prejudice, which would preserve your right to refile the case in the future.
- If the defendant has already filed a response to your complaint, or if other parties have been joined to the case, like another plaintiff, you may need to get signatures from all of the parties before you can file your request.
Complete the notice form.Depending on your state, you will need to complete a notice form instead of or in addition to the request for dismissal. You will serve the notice to the other parties to formally notify them that the action has been dismissed.
Prepare a proposed order.If your jurisdiction requires a hearing before the court will dismiss your case, you may need to submit a proposed order form. Only fill in the identifying information about the case and the litigants. Leave the portions regarding whether or not the suit is to be dismissed and whether or not the case will be dismissed with prejudice blank.
File your forms.Make copies of your forms, including copies for each other party who will need to be served. Take your copies and original forms to the court clerk, who will file the originals and stamp your copies. If a hearing is required before the court will grant your request, the clerk will notify you by mail of the hearing date. You may be charged a filing fee, particularly if a hearing is required.
Serve the other parties.Once you file your forms, you will need serve the other parties. If the defendant has not filed a response to your complaint, you will need to arrange to have the defendant personally served by a process server, the sheriff’s department, or someone over 18 who is not involved in the case.If the defendant has responded, you can probably serve the defendant by mail.
File a Proof of Service.You must file a Proof of Service form signed by the person who served the defendant, which establishes under penalty of perjury that he or she actually delivered or mailed the paperwork to the defendant. There may be a proof of service section attached to the notice of dismissal form.File the completed proof of service with the court clerk.
Filing a Notice of Settlement
Locate the proper form.If you have settled with the defendant, your state may require that you file a notice of settlement with the court, informing the court that the case is over, or at least on hold until the settlement amount has been paid. Contact the court clerk and ask what form or forms you need to file to give notice of the settlement.
Fill out the notice.Fill in the identifying information about the case and the parties. The form may also require you to include the terms of the settlement (how much is to be paid and when it is due), the next hearings or events on the court’s calendar that need to be removed, and whether or not you want to reserve the right to reopen the case if the defendant fails to pay the entire settlement amount.
File your forms.Make copies of your forms, including copies for each other party who will need to be served. Take your copies and original forms to the court clerk, who will file the originals and stamp your copies.
Serve the other parties.Once you file your forms, you will need serve the defendant. If the defendant has already filed a response to your complaint, you can probably simply mail the notice of settlement to the defendant.
File a Proof of Service.You must file a Proof of Service form signed by the person who served the defendant, which establishes under penalty of perjury that he or she actually delivered or mailed the paperwork to the defendant. File the completed proof service with the court clerk.
File a request for dismissal, if required.Your state may require you to file a request for dismissal after the last settlement payment has been paid by the defendant.The notice of settlement form should indicate whether you need to file additional documents with the court after the settlement has been paid.
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