Dismissal Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Dismissal?

n. 1) Voluntarily concluding a lawsuit or criminal prosecution by one of the parties involved. 2) The judge’s declaration that a criminal charge or lawsuit is ended. 3) Appeal court’s dismissal of an appeal. This lets the lower court’s decision stand. 4) The plaintiff’s act of settling a case and dismissing a lawsuit. A dismissal with prejudice indicates that the lawsuit can never be filed again. A dismissal without prejudice leaves the option to file the lawsuit again if the defendant does not follow through on the settlement terms.

History and Meaning of Dismissal

The legal term "dismissal" refers to the termination of a legal action, such as a lawsuit or a criminal prosecution. A dismissal can occur voluntarily or by a court order. When a dismissal happens voluntarily, it means that one of the parties involved in the action has decided to withdraw from it. On the other hand, a court-ordered dismissal is usually the result of a ruling on the merits of the case.

Examples of Dismissal

  1. A plaintiff may dismiss a lawsuit against a defendant if they have reached a settlement agreement. In this case, the plaintiff is voluntarily dismissing the case.

  2. A judge can dismiss a criminal charge against the defendant if there is not enough evidence to pursue the case. In this instance, the court is ordering the dismissal.

  3. An appeal court may dismiss an appeal if they find that there was no legal error made by the trial court. The dismissal means that the lower court's decision stands.

  4. A civil case can be dismissed if a party fails to follow court orders, such as providing key evidence. In this example, the dismissal is court-ordered.

Legal Terms Similar to Dismissal

  1. Summary Judgment - A decision made by a court based on evidence presented in pleadings, affidavits, and other documentation. It is a way to resolve a case without a trial.

  2. Dismissal with prejudice - A dismissal that occurs when the merits of the case have been conclusively decided, and the plaintiff is not allowed to bring the lawsuit again.

  3. Mistrial - A trial which has been terminated before its natural conclusion, either because of a procedural error or because of a hung jury.