Also found in: Financial, Acronyms, Idioms.
Without any loss or waiver of rights or privileges.
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.
A court may also enter judgment with prejudice, however. This signifies that the court has made an adjudication on the merits of the case and a final disposition, barring the plaintiff from bringing a new lawsuit based on the same subject. If a new lawsuit is brought, a defendant can properly invoke res judicata as a defense, because a court will not relitigate a matter that has been fully heard before. Often a court will enter a judgment with prejudice if the plaintiff has shown bad faith, misled the court, or persisted in filing frivolous lawsuits.