Dismiss Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Dismiss, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Dismiss?

v. A judge’s ruling that a portion or all of the lawsuit is terminated without allowing additional evidence or testimony. When the judge is convinced that the plaintiff has not and cannot prove his/her/its case, the judgment can be made to dismiss the case. This may occur before, during, or at the end of a trial and can be based on the complaint failing to allege a cause of action, on a motion for summary judgment, plaintiff’s opening statement, or a evidentiary development. Dismissal may occur at the judge’s discretion or upon the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff may choose to dismiss a cause of action before or during a trial if the case is settled, if it cannot be proven, or the trial strategy dictates eliminating a weak claim. When a lawsuit it dropped against the party, it is “dismissed.”

History and Meaning of Dismiss

A dismissal is a ruling made by a judge in a civil or criminal case that terminates the lawsuit partially or entirely, without allowing further evidence or testimony. The judgment of dismissal is issued after the judge has considered the complaint and any motions filed by the parties. Dismissal may occur at any stage in the legal proceeding and could result from numerous reasons.

Judges may issue a dismissal before the trial has started when a complaint fails to state a cause of action, or during the trial if a plaintiff cannot establish a claim based on evidence presented. Defendants may also request a dismissal if they can show that the case lacks merit and cannot proceed to trial.

Examples of Dismiss

  1. The lawyer for the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the plaintiff's claims lacked legal grounds.
  2. The judge granted the dismissal of the case because the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action.
  3. The court ordered the dismissal of the charges against the accused due to a lack of evidence implicating them in the crime.

Legal Terms Similar to Dismiss

  • Summary judgment: A ruling made by a judge before or during a trial that disposes of some or all of the issues in a case based on evidence submitted in a motion or during discovery.
  • Nolle prosequi: The formal entry of a prosecutor's decision to discontinue or dismiss a criminal case against an accused.
  • Voluntary dismissal: A dismissal of a case initiated by the plaintiff, with or without prejudice, meaning that they can refile the suit in the future if they choose to do so.