Dismiss refers to the court’s decision to terminate a court case without imposing liability on the defendant. The court may dismiss a case in response to a defendant’s motion to dismiss or do so sua sponte (voluntarily). According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 41(a), a plaintiff may also voluntarily dismiss an action by choosing to drop the case or by reaching an out of court settlement with the defendant. There are many reasons for a court to dismiss a case, both procedural and substantive. FRCP 12 provides the list of grounds for dismissal in federal court, which includes a lack of jurisdiction, improper service of process, failure to join a party, and a plaintiff’s failure to state a claim for relief. Additionally, under FRCP 41(b) a defendant can move to dismiss if a plaintiff fails to prosecute, comply with court rules, or court order. State procedural rules often have similar provisions to FRCP. A court can choose to dismiss a case with prejudice or without prejudice.
[Last updated in October of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]