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A judgment on the merits that is entered after the plaintiff has filed a proper Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1) notice of dismissal is indeed void. Although not every "void" judgment is subject to collateral attack, only those where the voidness is unarguable, the refusal to vacate under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(4) an unarguably void judgment is an abuse of discretion.
The alleged agents sued the alleged debtors and asserted that the alleged debtors were responsible for redeeming bearer bonds issued many years before. However, the alleged agents decided that they should voluntarily dismiss their suit and, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1), filed a notice of voluntary dismissal. The alleged debtors moved to dismiss the suit, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), on the same day. That motion was later converted to a motion for summary judgment because the alleged debtors attached materials outside the complaint. The record did not show which document, the notice or the motion, was filed first. The trial court granted the alleged debtors' motion for summary judgment and denied the alleged agents' motion to vacate it. The alleged agents appealed.
Under the circumstances, did the trial court err in granting summary judgment in favor of the alleged debtors?
The appellate court reversed the judgment of the trial court, holding that in order to be entitled to summary judgment, the alleged debtors had the burden of showing that their summary judgment motion was filed before the notice of voluntary dismissal. Since the alleged debtors did not make that showing, the trial court abused its discretion in granting summary judgment because entry of that summary judgment was void and subject to being vacated.