Ark. R. Civ. P. 41
Amended July 9, 1984, effective September 1, 1984; amended November 11, 1991, effective January 1, 1992; amended January 28, 1999; amended March 13, 2003.
Reporter's Notes to Rule 41: 1. Rule 41 differs significantly from FRCP 41 and basically follows prior Arkansas law. Under the Federal Rule, a plaintiff has the unqualified right to dismiss his claim without prejudice only until the defendant has filed his answer. Thereafter, court approval is required in order to dismiss without prejudice and the court has discretion to deny such a motion. Cone v. West Virginia Pulp & Paper Co., 330 U.S. 212, 67 S. Ct. 752 (1947). Indeed, FRCP 41 was purposely adopted to prevent a plaintiff from taking a voluntary non-suit at any stage of the proceedings and to put the control in the hands of the trial judge. Ockert v. Union Barge Line Corp., 190 F. 2d 303 (C.C.A. 3r d, 1951). 2. Section (a) rejects the limitations contained in FRCP 41 and instead follows prior Arkansas law as set forth in superseded Ark. Stat. Ann. § 27-1405 (Repl. 1962), by permitting one voluntary non-suit at any stage of the case prior to its submission to the jury or the court sitting as the fact finder. This Section does recognize, however, that court approval must be obtained in order to dismiss a claim under Rule 23(d) and Rule 66. 3. Section (a) retains the provisions of superseded Ark. Stat. Ann. § 27-1407 (Repl. 1962), which permitted a defendant to proceed on his set-off or counterclaim even though the plaintiff's claim has been dismissed. 4. Section (b) also marks a significant variation from FRCP 41(b). Under this rule, the trial court has the right to dismiss on its own motion a claim for failure to prosecute the action or failure to comply with these rules or any order of the court. Under the Federal Rule, such dismissal must be on motion of the defendant or other party affected. Also, under FRCP 41, a dismissal by the court under Section (b) is generally with prejudice, whereas under this rule, such a dismissal is without prejudice provided the case has not been previously dismissed in which event the second dismissal is with prejudice. The Federal Rule was rejected for the reason that while it states that an involuntary dismissal is with prejudice, the appellate courts have been quick to find an abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in dismissing a claim. Pond v. Braniff Airways, Inc., 453 F. 2d 347 (C.C.A. 5t h, 1972); Dyotherm Corp. v. Turbo Machine Co., 392 F. 2d 146 (C.C.A. 3r d, 1968). The Committee believed that the better practice is to make an involuntary non-suit without prejudice, but limit the number of times a case can be dismissed, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. 5. Omitted from Rule 41 is the provision found in FRCP 41(b) relative to dismissals after the completion of plaintiff's case when it is tried without a jury. Rule 50(a) accomplishes the same purpose whether the case is tried with or without a jury. This is the procedure previously followed in Arkansas and it has seemingly worked well. 6. Section (d) goes beyond the language of FRCP 41(d) by expressly permitting the trial court to impose costs or sanctions against a party who has previously had his claim dismissed, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. While the Federal Rule does not expressly confer such power upon the trial court, it has been held that the court does possess such power. Gainey v. Brotherhood R. & S. S. Clerks, 34 F.R.D. 8 (D.C. Pa., 1963 ). This rule is designed to clear any misunderstanding or confusion on this point. Additions to Reporter's Notes, 1984 Amendments: Rule 41(b) is amended to make specific the time period after which the court must order cause to be shown why the case should not be dismissed for want of prosecution. While Rule 10 of the Uniform Rules for Circuit and Chancery Courts provided such a dismissal was without prejudice, this rule provides it is with prejudice if it is the second dismissal, whether the previous dismissal was voluntary or involuntary. Addition to Reporter's Notes, 1999 Amendment: Subdivision (a) has been divided into three numbered paragraphs and revised to reflect case law. In Blaylock v. Shearson Lehman Brothers, Inc., 330 Ark. 620, 954 S.W.2d 939 (1997), the Supreme Court noted that it had "long interpreted [Rule 41(a) ] as creating an absolute right to a nonsuit prior to submission of the case to the jury or to the court." In the same case, the Court held that "a court order is necessary to grant a nonsuit and the judgment or decree must be entered to be effective." A new sentence has been added to subdivision (d) defining "costs" as those recoverable under Rule 54(d)(2), a new provision. A definition was deemed advisable in light of continuing confusion as to expenses that can be taxed as costs. See, e.g., Wood v. Tyler, 317 Ark. 319, 877 S.W.2d 582 (1994); Sutton v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 305 Ark. 231, 807 S.W.2d 905(1991). Addition to Reporter's Notes, 2003 Amendment: The reference to "Rule 23(d)" in subdivision (a)(1) has been corrected to read "Rule 23(e)."