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Nonsuit is a judgment given against a plaintiff in which the court dismisses a case because the plaintiff either was unable to make an adequate showing or is unwilling to continue with the case.  A nonsuit may be voluntary or involuntary.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) contains the guidelines for motions for nonsuit, although the Federal Rules do not use the term.  FRCP 41(a)(1)(A) provides circumstances in which the plaintiff may file motions to dismiss their case with or without a court order.  Unless stated otherwise in the order, such orders are without prejudice.  FRCP 41(b) provides circumstances in which a defendant may move for involuntary dismissal.  Unless the order states otherwise or is a dismissal for specific causes such as lack of jurisdiction, such an order will operate as an adjudication on the merits.

Similar procedures are also established in state rules of civil procedure. For example, Rule 162 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure allows the plaintiff to take a nonsuit at any time before introducing all of their evidence. Rule 96 states that the plaintiff will not be allowed to take a nonsuit if the defendant has filed a counterclaim for affirmative relief and would be prejudiced by the court discontinuing the plaintiff’s case.

Section 15-173 of Article 17 of the North Carolina General Statutes provides for a nonsuit in state criminal proceedings. The section states that a defendant may move for judgment after the State has introduced its evidence and rested its case and prior to the defendant introducing evidence. If the motion is granted, the court’s judgement has the effect of a “not guilty” verdict.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]