May 20, 2024

Kicking Cases to the Curb: Understanding Motions to Dismiss in North Carolina

Motions to dismiss sweep in at the early stages of litigation and seek to kick out claims on legal technicalities before discovery and trial even begin. The most common motion to dismiss is called a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, which asserts that you haven’t adequately alleged some critical fact that your case needs to succeed.  

What is a Motion to Dismiss? 

In the most basic sense, a motion to dismiss is a formal request filed by the defense which asks the presiding judge to dismiss a case for legal insufficiency. The motion essentially alleges that—even if all the facts stated in the complaint are assumed true—there is still no valid claim against the defendant.  

The defense can seek dismissal on the basis that the court does not have jurisdiction over the parties or the claim, the case has been filed in the wrong court, the defense hasn’t received proper notice of the claim, or there is a factual deficiency in the complaint.  

Picture this example: you slip and fall on an icy staircase leading from a restaurant patio in Stokes County. The restaurant you fell at is called “John’s Smoke House, LLC,” but in your complaint you named “David’s Smoke House, LLC.” Well, you’ve sued the wrong company and David’s Smoke House will file a motion to dismiss your claim on the basis that your complaint doesn’t actually allege any wrongdoing by their restaurant.  

Battling Early Case Termination  

If the defense is successful with their motion to dismiss, then that claim against that defendant is kicked out. If that was the only claim (or if all the claims were kicked out) then the entire case is dismissed. As an injured plaintiff, this can mean an abrupt end to hope of compensation before even reaching discovery and trial. Any flaws, even small technicalities, can justify dismissing the entire case if not fixed. 

If the motion to dismiss is denied, that generally means the case will proceed through discovery. But, under some circumstances, the denial of the motion to dismiss can be appealed. Even if the denial is not appealed, the argument is usually not over—later, you’ll likely face a motion for summary judgment on the same basis as the motion to dismiss. 

This information is provided by Harris Legal for general benefit, education, and interest. If you have a specific legal question, you should consult with an attorney.