After you’ve filed a lawsuit, circumstances may change so that you no longer want to proceed with your claim. Perhaps you have agreed to settle your claim with the other party, or maybe the other party has paid the money he owes you, or you simply want to avoid the additional expense and stress of court proceedings. It’s not complicated to withdraw a lawsuit, but you have to follow the correct procedure in your state, which involves filing specific forms with the court.
File the Court Notice
Ask the clerk at the court handling your lawsuit for the correct form to file to withdraw your claim. This varies by state, depending on civil procedure rules. For example, in Texas you file a Notice of Nonsuit with the court to dismiss a case. In California, you file a Request for Dismissal to withdraw a small claims case.
Complete the form and hand it to the court clerk to be processed. The form must also be served on the defendant in accordance with the rules of the court. In some jurisdictions, parties to the case may be able to agree to electronic service (i.e., by email). When service is complete, file the original and one copy of the proof of service form to let the court know the defendant is aware of your request. The clerk will keep the original and return the copy to you for your records. This completes the withdrawal process – your case is now officially dismissed.
Dismissing the Other Party's Claims
If the other party has filed a claim against you in the same case, for example, a counterclaim or a claim for costs, a Notice of Nonsuit won't dismiss the other party's claims. The entire case can be dismissed only if you both agree, in which case another form is required. In Texas, this is called an Agreed Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice.
Without Prejudice Versus With Prejudice
When you withdraw your lawsuit, you must indicate whether you want the court to dismiss the case "without prejudice" or "with prejudice." If your case is dismissed "without prejudice," you can refile it at a later date, subject to any applicable laws and the statute of limitations. If your case is dismissed "with prejudice," you cannot refile it at any time in the future.
If you reach an agreement with the defendant and have not yet been paid in full, you can choose dismissal without prejudice so that you can file a claim again if the defendant fails to make payments.
If you have received full payment and the case is over, or you know for certain you won't want or need to file again, you can choose dismissal with prejudice.
Read More: What Is the Meaning of Without Prejudice?
Suing Multiple Defendants
If you filed a claim against several parties but have decided you want to sue only one or some of them, you need to make this clear on the court form. For example, in Connecticut you file a Withdrawal, providing the names of the defendants you no longer want to sue in the "Partial Withdrawal" section. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, you may not be able to dismiss the case as to one or some defendants without the consent of the defendants you still want to sue.
Laws and procedures for withdrawing lawsuits vary by state, so make sure you know what to do in your jurisdiction.
To withdraw a lawsuit, you must file the correct form at the court where you filed your initial claim, for example, a Notice of Nonsuit in Texas or a Request for Dismissal in California. The form must also be served on the other parties in the case.
Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.