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Legal Memorandum: Dismissal Without Prejudice in MN

Issue: Under Minnesota law, does dismissal without prejudice create a bar to res judicata?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Dismissal without prejudice; Res judicata bar
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 176 F.3d 1110; 282 F.3d 1005
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 00/01/2008

Courts have held that a dismissal without prejudice is a non-final disposition that does not create a res judicata bar.  See Rosemann v. Roto-Die, Inc., 276 F.3d 393, 398 (8th Cir. 2002); Pohlman v. Bil-Jax, Inc., 176 F.3d 1110, 1112 (8th Cir. 1999) (“generally agree[ing] that dismissal of a case without prejudice . . . creates no res judicata bar”), cited in Smith v. Mo. Dep’t of Corrections, 207 Fed. Appx. 736, 737 (8th Cir. 2006) (unpublished opinion); see also In re Piper Aircraft Distrib. Sys. Anti-Trust Litig., 551 F.2d 213, 220 (8th Cir. 1977) (stating that the element of finality is lacking when a party has been dismissed without prejudice).  In the Smith case, the court specifically held that “the conditions of res judicata [were] not met because the first action was dismissed without prejudice.”  207 Fed. Appx. at 737. 

General authorities are in accord.  “If an action is dismissed ‘without prejudice,'” explains one legal encyclopedia, “there is no adjudication on the merits, and the judgment does not bar another suit on the same cause of action.”  50 C.J.S. Judgments § 736 (2008).  In other words,

[i]f a . . . complaint is dismissed “without prejudice,” that is, without prejudice to the right to bring another suit or take further proceedings, it has not the force of an adjudication on the merits and may not be pleaded in bar of another suit on the same cause of action, even though plaintiff presents no better or stronger case.

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