Nonsuit (L. Fr. nonsve, non mist, modern Fr. non suit, Lat. non seqvitur, he does not pursue), in law, a judgment given against a plaintiff in default of evidence, or for neglect to proceed with a cause after it has been put at issue. A plaintiff may find after commencing his action that he cannot maintain it for want of evidence. In order therefore to prevent a verdict and judgment which will be not only probably unfavorable to him, but also a bar to further process upon the same cause of action, he may abandon his suit and defer its complete prosecution until he is prepared with fuller testimony; in other words, he becomes nonsuit, This he may do at any time before verdict, unless an exercise of his right will wrong the defendant. If he fails to appear for the trial of his cause, the crier usually in open court calls upon him to come in and prosecute it; and if he does not, he is noted upon the docket as nonsuit, the action is at an end, and the defendant recovers his costs against him. If the plaintiff has once appeared, it seems to be the English rule, and that of many of the United States, that he cannot he nonsuited except by his own consent, provided he has offered pertinent, even though it was the slightest, evidence in support of his claims.
In some of the states, however, where this rule is maintained, the presiding judge recommends a nonsuit subject to the opinion of the full court. But in New York and other states, it is held to be within the power, and even duty, of the court to nonsuit the plaintiff, if in its opinion the testimony which he has offered will not authorize the jury to find a verdict for him, or if the court would set aside such a verdict as being contrary to the evidence. Yet in such a case of involuntary nonsuit the plaintiff may, upon a case made or upon a bill of exceptions, move to have the nonsuit set aside. - A nonsuit is a mere default. It does not, like judgment following upon a verdict, change the face of the matter in controversy. It leaves the parties in the same position toward each other as if no action had been brought. In submitting to it, the plaintiff does not admit that he has no cause of action; and, subject only to the probable order of court that further proceedings be stayed until the costs of the former suit are paid, the plaintiff is entitled to institute a new action at his pleasure.