Dismissal with Prejudice
A dismissal with prejudice is a judgment rendered in a lawsuit on its merits that prevents the plaintiff from bringing the same lawsuit against the same defendant in the future.
It is a harsh remedy that has the effect of canceling the action so that it can never again be commenced. A dismissal with prejudice is res judicata as to every issue litigated in the action.
The possibility of such a dismissal acts as a deterrent to the use of dilatory tactics by a plaintiff who wants to prejudice a defendant's case by unreasonably hindering the disposition of the action from the time of the filing of the action to the actual trial of the issues.
It is also designed to minimize, if not eliminate, the congestion of court calendars caused by unnecessary delays in pending cases. Because it is regarded as a drastic remedy, courts grant dismissals with prejudice only in the most egregious cases in response to a motion brought by a defendant or by a court sua sponte, or on its own will.
Dismissal without Prejudice
A plaintiff is not subsequently barred from suing the same defendant on the same cause of action when a court grants a dismissal without prejudice of his or her case.
Such a dismissal operates to terminate the case. It is not, however, an ultimate disposition of the controversy on the merits, but rather it is usually based upon procedural errors that do not substantially harm the defendant's rights.
It effectively treats the matter as if the lawsuit had never been commenced, but it does not relieve a plaintiff of the duty of complying with the statute of limitations, the time limit within which his or her action must be commenced. A dismissal without prejudice is granted in response to a notice of dismissal, stipulations, or a court order.