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Cause of Action

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A Cause of Action is the basis upon which a plaintiff files a complaint or a suit against someone. It is a bundle of essential facts which are necessary for the plaintiff to prove before he can succeed.

Lord Brett: Cause of Action means every fact which it would be necessary for the plaintiff to prove, if traversed, in order to support his right to judgement of the Court.

  • A cause of action "accrues" when a suit may be maintained thereon. Dillon v. Board of Pension Com'rs of City of Los Angeles, 18 Ca1.2d 427, 116 P.2d 37, 39, 136 A.L.R. 800.
  • Whenever one person may sue another. Hensley v. Conway, Tex.Civ.App., 29 S.W.2d 416, 418.
  • Cause of action "accrues," on date that damage is sustained and not date when causes are set in motion which ultimately produce injury. City of Philadelphia v. Lieberman, C.C.A.Pa., 112 F.2d 424, 428.
  • Date of injury. Fredericks v. Town of Dover, 125 N.J.L. 288, 15 A.2d 784, 787.
  • When actual damage has resulted. National Lead Co. v. City of New York, C.C.A.N.Y., 43 F.2d 914, 916.
  • As soon as contract is breached. Wichita Nat. Bank v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co., Tex.Civ.App., 147 S.W.2d 295, 297.
  • If a cause of action arises from a breach of promise, the action is "ex contractu," and, if it arises from breach of duty growing out of contract, it is "ex delicto."
  • A cause of action or suit "arises", so as to start running of limitation, when party has a right to apply to proper tribunal for relief. Washington Security Co. v. State, 9 Wash.2d 197, 114 P.2d 965, 967, 135 A.L.R. 1330 ; and it arises at time when and place where act is unlawfully omitted or committed. State ex rel. Birnamwood Oil Co. v. Shaughnessy, 243 Wis. 306, 10 N.W.2d 292, 295.
  • A "cause of action" may mean one thing for one purpose and something different for another. Venezuelan Meat Export Co. v. U. S., D.C.Md., 12 F.Supp. 379, 383; U. S. v. Memphis Cotton Oil Co., Ct.C1., 288 U.S. 62, 53 S. Ct. 278, 280, 77 L.Ed. 619.
  • It may mean :
    • accident, Maryland Casualty Co. v. Gerlaske, C.C.A.Tex., 68 F.2d 497, 499;
    • act causing injury, Fiscus v. Kansas City Public Service Co., 153 Kan. 493, 112 P.2d 83, 85;
    • action, Wattman v. St. Luke's Hospital Ass'n, 314 Ill.App. 244, 41 N.E.2d 314, 319;
    • averment of facts sufficient to justify a court in rendering a judgment, Mobley v. Smith, 24 Ala.App. 553, 138 So. 551; Vickers v. Vickers, 45 Nev. 274, 202 P. 31, '32;
    • breach of contract or agreement, Press v. Davis, Tex.Civ.App., 118 S.W.2d 982, 989, 990;
    • breach of duty. Shapiro v. McCarthy, 279 Mass. 425, 181 N.E. 842, 844;
    • case, Colla v. Carmichael U-Drive Autos, 111 Cal.App. 378, 294 P. 378, 380;
    • claim, Bishop v. Jensen, 212 Wis. 30, 248, N.W. 771, 772; East Side Mill & Lumber Co. v. Southeast Portland Lumber Co., 155 Or. 367, 64 P.2d 625, 627, 628;
    • concept of law of remedies. Rooney v. Maczko, 315 Pa. 113, 172 A. 151, 153; U. S. v. Memphis Cotton Oil Co., Ct.C1., 288 U.S. 62, 53 S.Ct. 278, 280, 77 L.Ed. 619;
    • concurrence of the facts giving rise to enforceable claim, United States v. Standard Oil Co. of California, D.C.Cal., 21 F.Supp. 645, 660;
    • contract, Stone Fort Nat. Bank of Nacogdoches v. Forbess, 126 Tex. 568, 91 S.W.2d 674;
    • demand, State v. Vincent, 152 Or. 205, 52 P.2d 203, 206;
    • every fact which it is necessary to establish to support right or obtain judgment, Beale v. Cherryhomes, Tex.Civ.App., 21 S.W.2d 65, 66; Dublin Mill & Elevator Co. v. Cornelius, Tex.Civ.App., 5 S.W.2d 1027, 1028;
    • fact, or a state of facts to which law, sought to be enforced against a person or thing, applies. Gulf, C. & S. F. Ry. Co v. Cities Service Co., D.C.Del., 270 F. 994, 995; Condor Pe-troleum Co. v. Greene, Tex.Civ.App., 164 S.W.2d 713, 718; Burns v. Duncan, 23 Tenn. App. 374, 133 S.W.2d 1000, 1004;
    • facts constituting wrong, Whalen v. Strong, 230 App.Div. 617, 246 N.Y.S. 40, 45;
    • facts which give rise to one or more relations of right-duty between two or more persons, Elliott v. Mosgrove, 162 Or. 507, 93 P.2d 1070, 1072, 1073, 1076;
    • failure to perform legal obligation to do, or refrain from performance of, some act, In re Canfield's Will, 165 Misc. 66, 300 N.Y.S. 502;
    • ground on which an action may be maintained or sustained, ground or reason for an action, East Side Mill & Lumber Co. v. Southeast Portland Lumber Co., 155 Or. 367, 64 P.2d 625, 627, 628. Juncture of wrong and damage, City of Newport v. Rawlings, 289 Ky. 203, 158 S:W.2d 12, 14;
    • legal duty and breach of duty, Alford v. Zeigler, 65 Ga.App. 294, 16 S.E.2d 69, 74;
    • legal liability arising out of facts, White v. Nemours Trading Corporation, D.C.Mass., 290 F. 250, 252;
    • legal obligation, Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. v. Clegg, 103 Utah 414, 135 P.2d 919, 922, 923;
    • legal right in plaintiff and duty in defendant and violation or breach of right or duty, Evan's v. Williams, 291 Ky. 484, 165 S.W.2d 52, 54;
    • legal right of action. Inhabitants of Town of Milo v. Milo Water Co., 129 Me. 463, 152 A. 616, 617;
    • legal right violated, Howard v. Brown, 172 Okl. 308, 44 P.2d 959, 961;
    • legal wrong threatened or committed, Connor v. Williams, 187 S.C. 119, 197 S.E. 211, 214;
    • matter for which action may be brought, Ex parte Teeters, 130 Or. 631, 280 P. 660, 662; Williams v. City of Dallas, Tex.Civ.App., 52 S.W.2d 373, 375;
    • negligent act or acts, Cox v. Wilkes-Barre R. Corporation, 334 Pa. 568, 6 A.2d 538, 539;
    • obligation, United States v. Standard Oil Co. of California, D.C.Cal., 21 F.Supp. 645, 660;
    • occurrence which gives rise to litigation, Maryland Casualty Co. v. Gerlaske, C.C.A.Tex., 68 F.2d 497, 499;
    • particular matter for which suit is brought, Severance v. Heyl & Patterson, 115 Pa.Super. 36, 174 A. 787, 789;
    • power to enforce obligation, Woods v. Cook, 14 Cal.App.2d 560, 58 P.2d 965, 966;
    • primary right and corresponding duty and delict or wrong, Vasu v. Kohlers, Inc., 145 Ohio St. 321, 61 N.E.2d 707, 714
    • redressible wrong, Meshek v. Cordes, 164 Okl. 40, 22 P.2d 921, 926
    • or breach of duty by defendant, Skalowski v. Joe Fisher, Inc., 152 S.C. 108, 149 S.E. 340, 344, 65 A. L.R. 1427; American Nat. Ins. Co. v. Warnock, Tex.Civ. App., 143 S.W.2d 624, 628
    • right of action or right of recovery, Williams v. City of Dallas, Tex.Civ.App., 52 S.W. 2d 373, 375 ; Graham v. Scripture, 26 How.Prac., N.Y., 501
    • right to bring suit, Viers v. Webb, 76 Mont. 38, 245 P. 257, 259; Grenada Bank v. Petty, 174 Miss. 415, 164 So. 316, 318
    • right to enforce obligations. Woods v. Cook, 14 Cal.App.2d 560, 58 P.2d 965, 966
    • right to prosecute an action with effect. Travelers' Ins. Co. v. Louis Padula Co., 224 N.Y. 397, 121 N.E. 398. 350
    • right to recover something from another, Universal Oil Products Co. v. Standard Oil Co. of Indiana, D.C.Mo., 6 F.Supp. 37, 39
    • right to relief in court, Kittinger v. Churchill Evangelistic Ass'n, 239 App.Div. 253, 267 N.Y.S. 719, 722; Mulligan v. Bond & Mortgage Guarantee Co., 193 App.Div. 741, 184 N.Y.S. 429, 431
    • subject matter of the controversy, Johnson v. Jordan, D.C.Okl., 22 F.Supp. 286, 289
    • subject-matter on which plaintiff grounds his right of recovery, Zelen v. Domestic Industries, 131 Neb. 123, 267 N.W. 352, 354; East Side Mill & Lumber Co. v. Southeast Portland Lumber Co., 155 Or. 367, 64 P.2d 625, 627, 628
    • that which creates necessity for bringing action, Brevick v. Cunard S. S. Co., 63 N. D. 210, 247 N.W. 373, 375
    • that which produces or effects result complained of, Jacobson v. Mutual Ben. Health & Accident Ass'n, 73 N.D. 108, 11 N.W.2d 442, 445, 446
    • unlawful violation of a right. Keith v. Texas & P. R. Co., 14 La.App. 290, 129 So. 190, 194
    • violation or invasion of right, East Side Lumber & Coal Co. v. Barfield, 193 Ga. 273, 18 S.E.2d 492, 496
    • wrong committed or threatened, Criswell v. Criswell, 101 Neb. 349, 165 N.W. 302.
    • It may sometimes mean a person having a right of action. Thus, where a legacy is left to a married woman, and she and her husband bring an action to recover it, she is called in the old books the "meritorious cause of action." 1 H.B1. 108.
  • A distinction may be taken between "cause of action" and "right of action." Elliott v. Chicago, M. & St. P. Ry. Co., 35 S.D. 57, 150 N.W. 777, 779. The cause of action is distinct .from the "remedy." Tonn v. Inner Shoe Tire Co., Tex.Civ.App., 260 S.W. 1078, 1080. And the cause of action may exist, though the remedy does not. Chandler v. Horne, 23 Ohio App. 1, 154 N.E. 748, 750.
  • Cause of action is not synonymous with chose in action.

Bank of Commerce v. Rutland & W. R. Co., 10 How.Prac., N.Y., 1. But under a Montana statute, If the relief sought is the recovery of money or other personal property, the cause of action is designated a "thing in action." State v. District Court of Tenth Judicial Dist. in and for Fergus County, 74 Mont. 355, 240 P. 667, 669.

  • Misjoinder of Cause of Action
  • Effect of non-joinder or relief and Cause of Action
  • Joinder of Cause of Action
  • Power of Court to order separate trials

A Cause of Action is divided into elements. It is important that all elements are to be proved to win a case.

Examples

Some examples of Cause of Action are:

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