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When a lawsuit is dismissed, the court may enter a judgment against the plaintiff with or without prejudice. When a lawsuit is dismissed without prejudice, it signifies that none of the rights or privileges of the individual involved are considered to be lost or waived. The same holds true when an admission is made or when a motion is denied without prejudice.
The inclusion of the term without prejudice in a judgment of dismissal ordinarily indicates the absence of a decision on the merits and leaves the parties free to litigate the matter in a subsequent action, as though the dismissed action had not been started. Therefore, a dismissal without prejudice makes it unnecessary for the court in which the subsequent action is brought to determine whether that action is based on the same cause as the original action, or whether the identical parties are involved in the two actions.
The purpose and effect of the words without prejudice in a judgment, order, or decree dismissing a suit are to prohibit the defendant from using the doctrine of Res Judicata in any later action by the same plaintiff on the subject matter. The doctrine of res judicata (from the Latin, “a thing decided”) is based on the importance of finality in the law. If a court decides a case, the subject of that case is firmly and finally decided between the persons involved in the suit, so no new lawsuit on the same subject may be brought by the persons involved. Therefore, the words without prejudice protect the plaintiff from a defendant’s res judicata defense.
Where a claim is dismissed without prejudice, the court is dismissing your claim; however, you may file the claim again. A court will often dismiss a claim without prejudice if there is some procedural defect with the claim. An example of this may be where the proper affidavits are not attached to the complaint, or in a breach of contract claim, where the claimant failed to attach a copy of the contract which is at issue. Although you may not proceed with the claim as it stands, and thus the reason for the court’s dismissal of that claim, they will allow you to cure the defects and re-file so that the court may hear your claim on its merits.