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Failure to Prosecute with Due Diligence

Litigation is time consuming and expensive. While it varies from case-to-case, the court imposed deadlines and legal delay tactics can sometimes unduly prolong proceedings. In certain circumstances, the court can unilaterally dismiss a case if it determines that the plaintiff is not expeditiously pursuing the claims. Indeed, trial courts have an inherent power to dismiss a case for failure to prosecute with due diligence. Shirrel v. Missouri Edison Co., 535 S.W.2d 446, 448 (Mo. 1976). This is a vague standard and the trial court is considered to be in the best position to determine whether the delay is prejudicial to the opposing party (usually the defendant). For this reason, appellate courts give great deference to a trial court’s determination on this issue. If the issue is contested on appeal, the appellate court will presume that the trial court’s ruling is correct, and the party complaining of the decision to dismiss or not dismiss for failure to prosecute with due diligence must demonstrate that the trial court abused its discretion.