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At any point in time throughout your case, you can decide to dismiss it. Dismissing the case means neither party needs to show up for court and the court will no longer hear your case.

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Reasons to Request for Dismissal

  • You can’t find the defendant to serve them, so you ask the court to dismiss the case, giving you time to locate the defendant for service. Depending on where you live, there are different time limits for how long you have to serve the defendant.
  • Maybe you settled the case with the defendant, and no longer need to go to trial.
  • You might have changed your mind and no longer want to sue the defendant.

Formally File for Dismissal

Unfortunately, you can’t just call the courthouse and tell them to cancel the lawsuit. The court will have a specific procedure for you to follow, most likely by filing a local document. For example, in California you would file and serve a CIV-110 Request for Dismissal Form. Contact your courthouse to see what form is needed to dismiss your case.

If the other party has filed a response in the case, you cannot dismiss it without them agreeing to the dismissal. If the other party has not filed a response in the case, you can request to dismiss the case without the other party’s approval.

Miss Your Court Date*

If you don’t show up to court on your trial date, the court will dismiss the case on its own. However, it is considerate to the court to dismiss the case ahead of time, as courts are busy with large caseloads. While your case may no longer be important to you, there are many other people who need that judge’s time that day. Dismissing your case after filing, but prior to trial, gives the court more time to address its remaining caseload.

*Missing your court date is not without risk, however. If you as the plaintiff don’t appear at the hearing, and don’t notify the court of the reason for the absence, the court has several options. The judge may:

  • Reschedule the case
  • Dismiss the case with prejudice
  • Dismiss the case without prejudice
  • If the defendant appears, the judge may enter a judgment against you after considering the defendant’s evidence.

Types of Dismissal

There are two different ways a case can be dismissed: with and without prejudice.

Dismiss with Prejudice

Dismissing a case with prejudice means you cannot file it again. This would be the right option for you if you decided you no longer want to sue the defendant.

Dismiss without Prejudice

If you dismiss a case without prejudice you can file the case again. This would be the right option if you need more time to locate the defendant to serve them.

Keep in mind that you are still bound by the statute of limitations to bring your case again—so even if you get more time to sue, you still have a time limit.

When you’re ready to dismiss your case, file three copies of the dismissal document for your particular courthouse. This way the court can keep one copy, you can keep one copy, and you can mail a copy to the defendant. Most likely, your state’s courthouse will require you to serve a copy of the dismissal on the defendant.

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The quest for justice is never easy, particularly when it comes to getting your money back. However, thanks to advances in technology, it has become easier. Quest for Justice’s first app, JusticeDirect, is the only app of its kind designed to support people without lawyers resolve their dispute and get their money back, both in and out of court. The first step to getting money back is through a letter demanding payment from the other party JusticeDirect offers customizable demand letters for free. If the letter demanding payment does not work, then the next step is taking them to court. JusticeDirect* will guide users every step of the way through the small claims court process by helping them:

  1. Understand the legal process;
  2. Evaluate the pros and cons that come with taking someone to court;
  3. Generate small claims court forms; and,
  4. Avoid common mistakes when filing your forms and serving notice on the other side.

*Currently, JusticeDirect can only help litigants sue in California’s small claims court.

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