Every lawsuit has a life of its own, with its facts and law. Yet cases will go through similar and predictable stages as they make their way towards a resolution. One of those phases is when one side or the other files a motion with the court to end the case before trial, either at the beginning of the suit through a motion to dismiss or toward the end of the case, through a motion for summary judgment.
The process and terminology surrounding lawsuit dismissal can seem strange and confusing to those unfamiliar with them. What does it mean in my case? Are there opportunities to appeal? The attorneys at De Castroverde Law have put together answers to the most common questions you may have about lawsuit dismissal.
What Does Dismissal Mean?
An order to dismiss brings a case to an early end without a ruling from a judge or jury about a defendant’s liability or other outstanding issues. A case can be dismissed at the request of a defendant, by the court on its own accord, or, in certain circumstances, by the plaintiffs themselves (though they may have some explaining to do since they brought the case in the first place.) You may be able to appeal a ruling to dismiss a lawsuit, but that question often involves detailed and technical interpretations of the law and civil procedure.
Why Would a Lawsuit Be Dismissed?
Cases can be dismissed for various reasons — some relating to the facts or the evidence, others originating from procedural violations that may be seen as creating an unfair advantage. In federal court, the reasons for dismissal are listed in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and generally fall into four categories:
- Lack of jurisdiction, which involves questions over a particular court’s authority to hear a case. Jurisdiction can be questioned based on the subject matter, meaning whether a court is allowed by law even to handle the dispute. Jurisdiction can also be challenged based on a geographic or territorial basis. Some disputes are just filed in the wrong place.
- Improper service of process, which relates to whether the plaintiffs have followed the rules in making defendants aware that a case has been filed. Rules on notice are designed to give defendants the information they need on a timely basis to respond reasonably.
- Failure to join a party, which involves questions about the individuals named as parties to a particular lawsuit. A court may find that a case is missing a critical party to controversy and decide that the case cannot proceed without that party.
- Failure to state a claim, which based on an evaluation of the case based on the information in the complaint. A motion to dismiss based on failure to state a claim requires the court to assume the facts are actual and decide if there is an actionable claim that warrants moving forward.
What is a Motion for Summary Judgment?
Lawsuits are also subject to dismissal through a procedure known as a motion for summary judgment, which has a slightly different basis than the motion to dismiss. Typically, motions to dismiss get filed in the earliest days of a case, before much progress has been made in evaluating the dispute.
The motion for summary judgment gets filed later, once the parties have had a chance to take depositions and exchange information with each other through the discovery process. Summary judgment motions ask a court to consider the evidence as it has been developed through discovery and decide if enough of a dispute of the facts exists to let a jury decide.
It’s an oversimplification, but a motion to dismiss asks whether the claims in a lawsuit complaint are strong enough to continue proceedings. A motion for summary judgment, on the other hand, evaluates the complaint and the evidence to make a similar decision. Summary judgment motions can also be made to dismiss individual sections of a complaint as well.
What Should You Do if Your Claim is Dismissed?
If you are the plaintiff in a case in which a court has granted a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment of an entire complaint, you generally have the right to appeal to a higher court. A panel will likely hear the appeal of appellate judges who will review the record and your attorneys’ arguments as to why the dismissal was wrong as a matter of fact or law. This is true at both the state and federal levels of jurisdiction.
As we said earlier, summary judgment motions sometimes involve a request for dismissal of only portions of a case. Sometimes, those decisions may also be appealable, though maybe not immediately. You may have to
wait until the entire case is resolved before filing the appeal. If you lose at the appellate court level, you may appeal to the state or U.S. Supreme Court, but many variables are involved when you get to that stage.
What is Prejudice?
Motions to dismiss may be granted either “with prejudice” or “without prejudice.” These are essential phrases for you to understand. A case dismissed without prejudice — perhaps due to a procedural error — can be corrected and filed again, and the process starts over. An order to dismiss with prejudice is final and cannot be re-filed. In that instance, your only recourse is to file for review by an appeals court.
DeCastroverde Law, By Your Side
It takes a lot to decide to sue. Seeing that case get dismissed is disappointing. At De Castroverde Law, we’re disappointed right alongside you. But know that we are here to fight for the compensation and justice you deserve. Serving Las Vegas and all of Nevada, De Castroverde Law provides experienced counsel in accidents and personal injuries. We will represent you in various claims, ranging from car accidents, casino incidents, dangerous drugs, excessive force, and medical malpractice to pedestrian, premises, and products liability. Our attorneys have a collective of 12 decades of experience in the law. We will stand by you throughout your case, even if it requires an appeal. For a no-obligation consultation, call us or contact us online today.