You can decide to dismiss a small claims case after filing. In California, request for dismissal means neither party needs to show up for court, and the court will no longer hear your case.
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.
How to Get a Small Claims Case Dismissed
Formally File for Dismissal
Unfortunately, you can’t simply 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, you would file and serve a CIV-110 Request for Dismissal Form in California. 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, you can request to dismiss the case without the other party’s approval.
Miss Your Court Date*
If you don’t attend 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, many others need that judge’s time that day. Dismissing your case after filing but before 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 Small Claims Case with Prejudice
Dismissing a case with prejudice means you cannot file it again. This would be the right option if you no longer want to sue the defendant.
Dismiss Small Claims Case 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.
Remember that even if you can file the case again, you are still bound by the statute of limitations.
When you’re ready to dismiss your case, file three copies of the dismissal document for your 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 of the defendant.