What is a “Dismissal for Want of Prosecution”?

A potential client recently called our office. He said that he has learned that he is being sued for a debt. However, this potential client has not actually been formally served with the lawsuit paperwork. After looking at the online county civil records docket sheet, he noticed that a “Dismissal for Want of Prosecution” (DWOP) hearing is set in the case. He wanted to know what that means.

Whenever a lawsuit is filed with a civil court, the court sometimes immediately sets that case for a DWOP hearing in the near future. (Sometimes, this hearing is simply called a “Dismissal Hearing” or a “Dismissal For Failure to Prosecute Hearing” or something similar.) This type of hearing allows the courts to keep cases moving and allows their dockets to run smoothly. Whenever a DWOP hearing is set, the court is telling the plaintiff to go out there and serve the defendant with the suit; otherwise, the court may dismiss the case from the docket due to the plaintiff’s failure to do so. Texas law mandates that the burden is on the plaintiff — not the court — to make sure that the defendant is properly served with the suit. The DWOP hearing, therefore, is an incentive for the plaintiff to keep the case moving forward, notify the defendant that they have been sued, and diligently prosecute their case. The DWOP hearing is very common in Dallas courts (especially County Courts at Law and District Courts), where it may be set as early as 2 months after a case is filed. On the other hand, I have seen where a DWOP hearing is set 9 or 10 months after a case is filed. The DWOP hearing does not happen as frequently, or as quickly, in Denton or Tarrant counties.