SCOA: Previous Subject Matter Jurisdiction Dismissal Does Not Count For 2-Dismissal Rule

In the case Jonesboro Healthcare Ctr., LLC v. Eaton-Moery Envtl. Services, Inc., 2011 Ark. 501 (decided December 1, 2011), the Arkansas Supreme Court held that a previous dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction will not count as a dismissal for purposes of the two-dismissal provision of Ark.R.Civ.P. 41(b).

Generally under Rule 41(b), a dismissal will be deemed to be with prejudice if the case has previously been dismissed. (Sometimes this is referred to as the “two-dismissal rule.”)

But in this case, notwithstanding what it said was the “literal” language of the rule, the supreme court held that a previous subject matter jurisdiction dismissal will not be considered the type of dismissal to which Rule 41(b) applies.

The plaintiff in this case brought a $26,000 action alleging breach of a service contract. Even though the complaint was captioned with “Circuit Court,” it was inadvertently filed in district court. Since a district court case cannot seek over $5,000.00 in damages, the case was dismissed. It was then refiled in circuit court.

At a later date, it was dismissed from circuit court due to a fatally flawed summons.

The supreme court held that the dismissal from circuit court was without prejudice because the earlier district court dismissal was only due to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Arkansas Judiciary link (pdf).