United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
KATHERINE LONGSTREET COOKE, et al. PLAINTIFFS
MERITOR, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
environmental action is before the Court on Stacy
Bridges' motion for voluntary dismissal without
prejudice. Doc. #331.
Relevant Procedural History
1, 2016, the plaintiffs in this action filed an amended
complaint against Meritor, Inc., Rockwell Automation, Inc.,
The Boeing Company, and Textron, Inc. Doc. #44. The amended
complaint asserts various claims against the defendants
arising from pollution allegedly caused by the operation of a
manufacturing plant in Grenada County, Mississippi.
Id. at ¶ 1. The claims include causes of action
for property damage and for emotional distress.
November 9, 2017, Stacy Bridges, one of the plaintiffs, filed
a motion to voluntarily dismiss her claims without prejudice.
Doc. #331. The defendants filed a joint response on November
22, 2017. Doc. #352. Bridges did not file a reply.
Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2) provides that where, as
here, an opposing party has served an answer or a motion for
summary judgment and no joint stipulation of dismissal has
been filed, “an action may be dismissed at the
plaintiff's request only by court order, on terms that
the court considers proper.” Decisions to grant
dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2) fall within the discretion of
the district court. U.S. ex rel. Doe v. Dow Chem.
Co., 343 F.3d 325, 330 (5th Cir. 2003).
is no single formula for balancing a court's discretion
on a Rule 41(a)(2) determination.” Oxford v.
Williams Cos., Inc., 154 F.Supp.2d 942, 951 (E.D. Tex.
2001). However, “[m]otions for voluntary dismissal
generally should be freely granted unless the non-moving
party will suffer some plain legal prejudice other than the
mere prospect of a second lawsuit.” Test Masters
Educ. Servs., Inc. v. Robin Singh Educ. Servs., Inc.,
799 F.3d 437, 448 (5th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted).
To determine the existence of plain legal prejudice, the
Fifth Circuit has cited with approval a four-factor test from
the Eighth Circuit under which a court considers: “(1)
the defendant's effort and the expense involved in
preparing for trial, (2) excessive delay and lack of
diligence on the part of the plaintiff in prosecuting the
action, (3) insufficient explanation of the need to take a
dismissal, and (4) the fact that a motion for summary
judgment has been filed by the defendant.” Elbaor
v. Tripath Imaging, Inc., 279 F.3d 314, 317 n.3 (5th
Cir. 2002) (quoting Witzman v. Gross, 148 F.3d 988,
992 (8th Cir. 1998)). In addition to these factors, the Fifth
Circuit has considered whether dismissal would cause the
non-movant to be stripped of an otherwise available defense,
Phillips v. Ill. Cent. Gulf R.R., 874 F.2d 984, 987
(5th Cir. 1989); and whether the dismissal is sought
“after an adverse trial court ruling, ”
Manshack v. Sw. Elec. Power Co., 915 F.2d 172, 174
(5th Cir. 1990).
Effort and Expense in Preparing for Trial
“Where the plaintiff does not seek dismissal until a
late stage and the defendants have exerted significant time
and effort, the district court may, in its discretion, refuse
to grant a voluntary dismissal.” Hartford Accident
& Indem. Co. v. Costa Lines Cargo Servs., Inc., 903
F.2d 352, 360 (5th Cir. 1990). In this case, the defendants
contend that they have invested significant effort and
expense preparing for trial because:
This case has been pending before the Court for 19 months
…. The parties are days away from completing more than
a year of extensive party and third-party discovery, with
multiple amended complaints filed and hearings attended.
Indeed, discovery in this complex environmental contamination
case involves multiple sets of parties, covers many decades,
and requires costly expert reports and environmental surveys
Doc. #352 at 4-5.
Court agrees that, for the above reasons, the defendants have
invested significant effort and expense into this case and
that, therefore, the first factor weighs against dismissal
without prejudice. See Dow Chem., 343 F.3d at 330
(affirming denial of voluntary dismissal where “[b]oth
sides had filed responsive pleadings in addition to motions
to compel, motions for expedited hearing, motions to dismiss,
motions for oral arguments, and a motion for rehearing[ and
t]he parties had attended several conferences for purposes of
Excessive Delay and ...