In Franklin Capital Corp. v. Wilson, 148 Cal. App. 4th 187, 55 Cal. Rptr. 3d 424 (4th Dist. Feb. 28, 2007), the plaintiff attempted to take a voluntary dismissal without prejudice on the eve of a mandatory settlement conference with the court. Nevertheless, the court held the conference, vacated the voluntary dismissal and entered dismissal with prejudice. By that time, plaintiff’s counsel already had a long record of missed court hearings and had been ordered to pay sanctions.
Nevertheless, the appellate court found that a plaintiff has an absolute right pursuant to statute to take a voluntary dismissal without prejudice at any time prior to commencement of “trial” or the pendency of an impending dispositive procedure, and that the mandatory settlement conference did not fall under any of those categories. Thus, the trial court had no authority to convert the voluntary dismissal to one with prejudice.