In Missouri, a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit has unfettered authority to dismiss his/her/its lawsuit all the way up until a trial. Under Rule 67.02, a plaintiff may dismiss a civil lawsuit at any time prior to the swearing of the jury panel for jury selection. For judge-tried cases, a plaintiff may dismiss at any time prior to the introduction of evidence at trial. The question of what constitutes a “trial” under this rule has been the subject of some question. For instance, a hearing on a motion for summary judgment may sometimes constitute a “trial” before the court without a jury for purposes of the voluntary dismissal rule. Smith v. A.H. Robbins Co., 702 S.W.2d 143, 146 (Mo. Ct. App. 1985).
The voluntary dismissal rule is important because it preserves judicial resources by allowing plaintiffs to withdraw cases without involving the court needlessly. Practically, it comes about when a Plaintiff decides that it is no longer worthwhile to pursue the claim. Voluntary dismissals also are invoked frequently when a case is settled as a way of procedurally concluding the litigation.