United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM DECISION
CAMPBELL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
Travis Cracraft, who is proceeding pro se, brought
this action against Utah Valley University (UVU) and Jared
Lesser, alleging a conspiracy involving an algorithm he
described in 2003 while enrolled at the school. The court has
three motions pending before it: UVU's Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 7) and Motion for Entry of judgment (ECF No. 9), and
Mr. Cracraft's Motion for Extension of Time to respond to
UVU's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10). But to resolve
these motions, the court must first resolve the effect of Mr.
Cracraft's Notice of Voluntary Dismissal (ECF No. 8), in
which he sought to dismiss all claims against both
Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds
that UVU is no longer a party to the case, and the pending
motions are moot.
Cracraft initiated this case on February 22, 2019, and the
parties began to litigate as expected. Mr. Lesser filed an
Answer (ECF No. 6), and UVU filed a Motion to Dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). But, on
April 12, 2019, Mr. Cracraft filed a Notice of Voluntary
Dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
41(a)(1)(A)(i). Because Mr. Lesser had filed an answer, the
Clerk's Office noted in the docket entry that “an
answer has already been filed on 3/13/19 so cannot close the
case per F.R.C.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i).” (Docket Text, ECF
No. 8.) Soon after, UVU filed a Motion for Entry of Judgment,
where it took the position that Mr. Cracraft's Notice had
effectively dismissed the claims against UVU.
Cracraft then filed two additional documents with the court,
both of which suggest that he believes his Notice did not
dismiss either of the two Defendants. First, he sought an
extension to file an amended complaint or otherwise respond
to UVU's Motion to Dismiss. Second, he filed a Response
to UVU's Motion for Entry of Judgment in which he
confirmed his earlier desire to dismiss the entire action.
But he also announced that he intends to file an amended
complaint against UVU and Mr. Lesser-apparently under the
assumption that both parties remain in the case.
court must now determine the consequence of Mr.
Cracraft's Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, and its effect
on the other pending motions.
Rule of Civil Procedure 41 provides a number of ways in which
parties can dismiss a case or claims. Relevant here, Rule
41(a)(1)(A) allows a plaintiff to dismiss an action without
an order from the court. The plaintiff may do so
unilaterally, by filing “a notice of dismissal before
the opposing party serves either an answer or a motion for
summary judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i).
Otherwise, the plaintiff must file “a stipulation of
dismissal signed by all parties who have appeared.”
Id. 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). While a Rule 12(b) motion can,
in some circumstances, substitute for an answer, the two
filings operate differently for the purpose of dismissal. An
answer will close a plaintiff's door to unilateral
voluntary dismissal under subsection (i), and a Rule 12(b)
motion (unless formally converted by the court into a motion
for summary judgment) will not. See Van Leeuwen v. Bank
of America, N.A., 304 F.R.D. 691, 692-93 (D. Utah 2015).
Tenth Circuit has not squarely addressed whether Rule
41(a)(1)(A), which speaks of dismissing an “action,
” allows the dismissal of claims against just one of
multiple defendants. While the Second Circuit may prohibit
such piecemeal dismissal, “the sounder view and the
weight of judicial authority is to the contrary.” 9
Wright & Miller, Fed. Practice & Proc.
§ 2362 (3d. ed. 2019); see, e.g., Van
Leeuwen, 304 F.R.D. at 697; O'Neill v.
Jaramillo, No. CV 11-0858 JB/GBW, 2012 WL 13081211, at
*3 (D.N.M. Jan. 18, 2012). This holds true even when
remaining defendants have filed answers or motions for
summary judgment and are no longer subject to dismissal.
Aggregates (Carolina), Inc. v. Kruse, 134 F.R.D. 23,
25-26 (D.P.R. 1991).
notice of voluntary dismissal under Rule 41(a)(1)(A) is
self-executing, and effective upon filing. Janssen v.
Harris, 321 F.3d 998, 1000 (10th Cir. 2003). As a
result, “[o]nce the notice of dismissal has been filed,
the district court loses jurisdiction over the dismissed
claims and may not address the merits of such claims or issue
further orders pertaining to them.” Id.
(quoting Duke Energy Trading & Mktg., L.L.C. v.
Davis, 267 F.3d 1042, 1049 (9th Cir. 2001)).
light of this framework, the court has no choice but to
recognize that Mr. Cracraft's Notice of Voluntary
Dismissal effectively dismissed all claims against UVU. His
Notice is unequivocal: he states that he “hereby gives
notice that the above-captioned action is voluntarily
dismissed, without prejudice against the defendants Utah
Valley University and Jared Lesser.” (ECF No. 8, at 1.)
He confirmed his intent in his Response to UVU's Motion
for Entry of Judgment. (ECF No. 12, at 2 (“I decided to
utilize FRCP 41(a)(1)(A)(i) to voluntarily dismiss the action
with the knowledge that I'd be able to make the same
claims, with others, in a later lawsuit.”).)
with Mr. Cracraft's Notice, the court's function is
simply to determine whether UVU or Mr. Lesser had filed
answers or motions for summary judgment. Janssen,
321 F.3d at 1000-01. UVU had not, so the Notice was
self-executing-the claims against UVU were thereby dismissed,
and UVU is no longer a party to the case. But since Mr.
Lesser had filed an answer, the Notice was not effective for
the claims against him-those claims remain, and Mr. Lesser
remains a party to the case.
the court lacks jurisdiction to resolve UVU's pending
Motion to Dismiss, rendering that motion-and Mr.
Cracraft's Motion for Extension of Time to respond to
it-moot. And since Mr. Cracraft's Notice was ...