A motion for nonsuit in California is the topic of this blog post.
A motion for nonsuit in California can be very useful if it is filed in the appropriate situations. This is due to the fact that a motion for nonsuit allows a defendant to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence offered by a plaintiff at an early stage of the trial while still preserving the right to present their defense if the motion for nonsuit is denied. It should be noted that a defendant may not move for nonsuit until after plaintiff has completed their opening statement, or has presented their evidence in a jury trial.
Several California Court of Appeal published decisions have held that a motion for nonsuit functions as a demurrer to the evidence offered by plaintiff.
Law authorizing a motion for nonsuit in California.
Code of Civil Procedure section 581(c) is the statutory authority for filing a motion for nonsuit in California.
Code of Civil Procedure § 581c states that,
“(a) Only after, and not before, the plaintiff has completed his or her opening statement, or after the presentation of his or her evidence in a trial by jury, the defendant, without waiving his or her right to offer evidence in the event the motion is not granted, may move for a judgment of nonsuit.
(b) If it appears that the evidence presented, or to be presented, supports the granting of the motion as to some but not all of the issues involved in the action, the court shall grant the motion as to those issues and the action shall proceed as to the issues remaining. Despite the granting of the motion, no final judgment shall be entered prior to the termination of the action, but the final judgment in the action shall, in addition to any matters determined in the trial, award judgment as determined by the motion herein provided for.
(c) If the motion is granted, unless the court in its order for judgment otherwise specifies, the judgment of nonsuit operates as an adjudication upon the merits.
(d) In actions which arise out of an injury to the person or to property, when a motion for judgment of nonsuit was granted on the basis that the defendant was without fault, no other defendant during trial, over plaintiff’s objection, may attempt to attribute fault to or comment on the absence or involvement of the defendant who was granted the motion.”
Limitations on a motion for nonsuit in California.
It should be noted that a motion for nonsuit has some limitations as the judge hearing the motion for nonsuit in California has very limited discretion as the court must rule solely on the basis of the evidence offered by plaintiff. In ruling on a motion for nonsuit in California after the opening statement, the court can only consider only the matters stated by plaintiff in the opening statement and any reasonable inferences that may be drawn.
The California Supreme Court stated in a published decision from over 100 years ago that granting nonsuit after an opening statement is disfavored and should be avoided unless the evidence clearly shows that no case can be made out.
The discretion is very similar in ruling on a motion for nonsuit after plaintiff has presented their case, in that case only the evidence submitted by plaintiff and any reasonable inferences that may be drawn can be considered.
Many motions for nonsuit in California are made orally and without any prior notice being provided to plaintiff. Although supporting papers are not generally required, a motion for nonsuit in California is more powerful if it is based on points and authorities. A motion for motion after plaintiff has presented their case may be based on exhibits received in evidence and transcripts of testimony.
The party filing a motion for nonsuit in California must state the precise grounds on which the motion is made, and should indicate the defects in the plaintiff’s case clearly and with particularity.
As should be obvious by now, the requirements for a motion for nonsuit are quite restrictive.
Advantages of a motion for nonsuit in California.
However a motion for nonsuit does have one huge advantage in that it operates as an adjudication upon the merits “unless the court in its order for judgment otherwise specifies.” See Code of Civil Procedure § 581c.
A defendant who prevails on a motion for nonsuit is entitled to recover their costs. See Code of Civil Procedure § 1033.
There is one key point to remember which is that anyone considering a motion for nonsuit after plaintiff’s opening statement should consider the fact that, if the defects identified are easily correctable, plaintiff will not only be alerted, they will simply oppose the motion and stress that motions for nonsuit are disfavored which they clearly are.
An experienced litigation attorney can evaluate your situation and determine if filing a motion for nonsuit is appropriate for your case. Contact attorney Nathan Mubasher for a free consultation and evaluation of your case.
Schedule a free consultation today with attorney Nathan Mubasher.
Call (800) 691-2721 and let’s talk about your options.
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR NATHAN MUBASHER:
Law Offices of Nathan Mubasher
2621 Green River Rd, Ste 105 PMB 403
Corona, CA 92882
tel 1-800-691-2721 | fax 1-310-356-3660
Thank you for reading. I hope I could have been educational as I endeavor to provide my knowledge as a free public service. Please note that all the materials and information on this blog are general analyses made available for the public’s general informational purposes only. These analyses are not in any way intended to serve as specific legal advice to be applied in your particular situation. Although I am an attorney, absent a signed retention and engagement letter, I am not your attorney. There are no exceptions to this rule. Moreover, you shall not rely on the information I am providing you, as it is only for your general knowledge and educational purposes, since this information would likely change based on any additional facts. Thus the transmission and receipt of information on this blog by anyone does not form or constitute an attorney-client relationship. My knowledge of laws is limited to California. Anyone receiving any information on this blog should not act upon the information provided without first obtaining the services of professional legal counsel licensed in their respective jurisdiction. Best of luck.