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April 14, 2022

Voluntary Dismissal to Avoid Adverse Result in Federal Court? Not So Fast, Says Eighth Circuit

By Dustin B. Rawlin, Monee Hanna

In an article published by the American Bar Association, Cleveland Office Managing Partner Dustin Rawlin and Los Angeles partner Monee Takla Hanna discuss the Eighth Circuit’s decision to affirm both a district court’s denial of a plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal motion without prejudice and the district court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s case with prejudice instead.

The takeaway: A defendant should not allow a plaintiff with an unmeritorious case to dismiss voluntarily with an untrammeled right to re-file in state court. Oppose the voluntary dismissal vigorously, unmask the plaintiff’s true motive, and ask for dismissal with prejudice as an alternative to simply requesting that the court set terms and conditions of the dismissal to mitigate prejudice. In Graham, the district court clearly saw that the plaintiff was engaging in gamesmanship in a case she knew she should lose, and the court did not like it. Sometimes a defendant simply needs to ask for the relief it believes is warranted.