A federal judge has approved a deal to dismiss the lawsuit against Paula Deen. So it looks as though the most recent development in the ex-Food Network star's legal saga may also be the last one.
Deen's legal troubles began when former employee Lisa Jackson filed a lawsuit against the celebrity chef and her brother, accusing them of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. The recipe turned out even more disastrous, after Deen admitted in a deposition to using the N-word in the past. In the commotion that followed, Deen was let go from Food Network.
Now, it looks as though she can put some of that to rest, as the Paula Deen lawsuit has been dismissed "with prejudice." What does that mean, exactly?
With Prejudice (Not to Be Confused With Racism)
"With prejudice" in this context has nothing to do with Deen's allegedly racist acts. In the legal world, prejudice means something different.
Cases are dismissed in a number of ways, including "with prejudice" or "without prejudice." Dismissing a case with prejudice means that it is permanently dismissed, and cannot be brought back to court. This bars the plaintiff from bringing forth a new lawsuit on the same subject matter. This means that Lisa Jackson is not allowed to ever sue again based on these aforementioned issues.
By contrast, when a case is dismissed "without prejudice," it's not dismissed forever. A case dismissed without prejudice can be tried again by the plaintiff.
Another legal term often comes into play when discussing case dismissals and prejudice: res judicata.
Res judicata is a rule stating that a final judgment on the merits by a court is conclusive between the parties to a suit. It covers all matters that were litigated or that could have been litigated in that suit. The purpose of this rule is to ensure that a lawsuit is only litigated once, and to prevent dissatisfied parties from trying to litigate again.
Res judicata is relevant when it comes to a case being dismissed with prejudice or without prejudice. As mentioned above, when a case is dismissed with prejudice, it can't be brought again. So if a plaintiff (like Lisa Jackson) tries to relitigate a case that's been dismissed with prejudice, the defendant (Paula Deen in this case) can raise res judicata as a defense.