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Do you have to pay court fees if the case is dismissed?

Who pays court costs if a case is dismissed?

Whether you file a lawsuit or have a suit filed against you, it is implicit that you will have to bear the charges as long as the case is under litigation. There are different types of court costs that need to be borne by either party. These are:

  • A filing fee is the sum total that one needs to pay to start the lawsuit in court. The amount must be paid to the court. The court clerk will provide you with a list of costs that you must pay before starting the case. The filing expenses are generally waived only in the instance of domestic abuse.
  • The service fee is the amount that needs to be paid to serve a notice to the other party. The price is paid to the sheriff.
  • A witness fee is paid when a witness is requested to testify for your suit.
  • An appeal fee is paid if either party decides to appeal to a higher court for a case reviewable.
  • A mediation fee is usually charged in case of a family lawsuit where a mediator might be involved. The mediator helps the parents to reach an agreement about the children.

Apart from these, if both parties employ an attorney to argue their court case, each side must pay the attorney expenses.

Dismissal of court cases

Dismissals In Court Cases are of two types – Voluntary Dismissal and Involuntary Dismissal.

1. Voluntary dismissal

It is where a lawsuit is terminated at the request of the plaintiff. In this case, the person who files the suit voluntarily chooses to withdraw the claim. Or the plaintiff and the defendant jointly decide the case’s dismissal; it is termed voluntary dismissal. There are many reasons why the plaintiff goes in for voluntary dismissal.

  • Both parties have reached an agreement to end the case.
  • The plaintiff was paid satisfactorily by the person he sued.
  • The plaintiff could not find the defendant to serve him the notice.
  • The plaintiff does not want to pursue the case because he has changed his mind.

Voluntary dismissal can be of two types: ‘with prejudice’ and ‘without prejudice.’ ‘With prejudice’ is where the suit can never be filed again, and ‘Without prejudice’ implies that the case can be re-filed anytime later.

2. Involuntary dismissal

Despite the plaintiff’s objections, it is called an involuntary dismissal if the case still gets terminated. It is usually resorted to by the court if it feels that the plaintiff is not acting properly. The dismissal can be brought about by the judge’s order or by the defendant on different grounds. If the plaintiff is not compliant with court orders or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 41 (b), the suit can be dismissed.

Who pays the court fees when a case is dismissed?

In most cases, until mentioned by the court order, each party in litigation needs to bear the costs. If a case is dismissed, who will pay the court costs is determined based on different factors:

  • The reason behind the dismissal of the case.
  • The State of the jurisdiction where the case was being heard as the laws differ from State to State.
  • Whether it is a civil or a criminal case.


  1. In a court ruling, if the judge finds or determines that one party has prevailed and the other has pursued the matter dishonestly, then the losing party may be ordered to pay the court costs for both sides. As a result, if a claim is dismissed and the court concludes that the action against you brought fraudulent misrepresentation with malicious intent, the court can ask the other party to pay the total amount.
  2. As per civil laws, the losing party is the one that pays for the attorney’s fees of the prevailing party. As a general rule, in case of a voluntary dismissal initiated by the plaintiff, the defendant naturally becomes the prevailing party. Therefore, the plaintiff is responsible for paying the defendant’s attorney fees.

However, things are not as simple as they appear; there are clauses attached.

  • The US Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit ruled in April 2020 that a defendant cannot be a prevailing party and hence cannot collect the attorney’s fees if the plaintiff voluntarily dismisses the case without prejudice. The defendant is not a prevailing party in such a case because the court did not decide about the litigant being the prevailing party. Various decisions by different courts point towards the same fact.
  • In a civil case, if you have reached a settlement with the other party for $10,000 plus, you will need to pay the court fees. In this case, the court generally does not dismiss the case until the payments have been made.
  • If the court does not find the defendant guilty in a criminal case, the defendant is not liable to bear the court costs. Only when the defendant is found guilty or convicted, the defendant must pay the fees. However, even if you have been found not guilty, you still need to bear the attorney fees when you have hired an attorney. If the court appoints the attorney, and you are found not guilty, you will not have to repay the attorney’s fee to the State.

Bottom Line

As is evident, there is no generic rule or clause that governs the payment of court fees in case a lawsuit against you is dismissed. There are specific factors that influence the decision. It is recommended to take the legal help of a qualified and experienced lawyer in this matter as there are multiple categories of fees. The entire gamut is complicated and needs a seasoned professional to let you tide over the issue.

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