cause of action – a group of operative facts which give rise to one or more bases for suing

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cause of action:

1. A term difficult of precise definition, perhaps best defined as the fact or facts which establish or give rise to a right of action, in other words, give to a person a right to judicial relief;  Fielder v Ohio Edison Co. 158 Ohio St 375, 109 NE2d 855, 35 ALR2d 1365.

More, summarily defined, a cause of action is the right which a party has to institute a judicial proceeding.  1 Am J2d Actions § 1.

A cause of action is to be distinguished from right of action.  A right of action is the right to enforce presently a cause of action, that is, it is the operative fact or facts which give rise to a right of action.  1 Am J2d Actions § 2.

A cause of action is a matter of substance concerned with the violation of a right, not a mater of remedy.  34 Am J1st Lim Ac § 45.

But “Cause of action” is synonymous with “action” in the sense that the survival of an “action” is the survival of a “cause of action.”  1 Am J2d Abat & R § 1. [1]

1. Circumstances that give a person the right to bring a lawsuit and to receive relief form a court. [2]

l. A group of operative facts giving rise to one or more bases for suing; a factual situation that entitles one person to obtain a remedy in court from another person; CLAIM (4) <after the crash, Aronson had a cause of action>. [3]

     Excerpt from Edwin E. Bryant’s The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure (2d ed. 1899):

     “What is a cause of action? Jurist-s have found it difficult to give a proper definition. It may be,defined generally “to be a situation or state of facts that entitles a party to maintain an action in’a judicial tribunal. This state of facts may be

(a) a primary right of the plaintiff actually violated by the defendant; or

(b) the threatened violation of such right, which violation the plaintiff is entitled to restrain or prevent, as in case of actions or suits for injunction; or

(c) it may be that there are doubts as to some duty or right, or the right beclouded by some apparent adverse right or claim, which the plaintiff is entitled to have cleared up, that he may safely perform his duty, or enjoy his property. [4]

2. Loosely, a lawsuit <there are four defendants in the pending cause of action>. Abbr. COA. [1]

3. A legal theory of a lawsuit <a malpractice cause of action>. — aka (in senses 1 and 2) ground of action.

Related Terms:

accrual of cause of action – a cause of action generally accrues at the time of the injury, not at the time the damage is discovered.

new cause of action (18c) A claim not arising out of, relating to, or involving the conduct, occurrence, or transaction contained in the original pleading.  *  An amended pleading often relates back to the date on which the original pleading was filed.  Thus, a plaintiff may add claims to a suit without facing a statute of limitations bar, as long as the original pleading was timely filed. But if the amended pleading adds a claim that arises out of a different transaction or occurrence, or out of different alleged conduct, the amendment does not relate back to the date on which the original pleading was filed. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c).

identity of causes of action – two actions asserting the same rights, demanding the same relief, and founded on the same fact.

joinder of causes of action – union of two or more causes of action, each of which could be made the basis of a separate suit, in the same complaint, declaration, bill, or petition.

  • misjoinder of causes of action – improper joining of two or more causes of action which should not be joined due to the lack of consistency between the causes.

separate counts – two or more charges of distinct offenses in an indictment or information, each count being in contemplation of the law a separate indictment, and constituting separate causes of action.

  • splitting causes of action – bringing separate actions upon separate and distinct causes of action against the same person instead of joining all causes in one action.

abatement of cause of action – The termination of a right to commence legal action because of the death of a necessary party.

chose in action :

1. A proprietary right in personam, such as a debt owed by another person, a share in a joint-stock company, or a claim for damages in tort.

2. The right to bring an action to recover a debt, money, or ting.

3. Personal property that one person owns but another person possesses, the owner being able to regain possession through a lawsuit. — aka thing in action; right in action[1]

1. An incorporeal right; the right of a creditor to be paid; a right not reduced to possession but recoverable by bringing and maintaining an action. 42 Am J1st Prop § 26. [2]

1. A right to bring a lawsuit; a cause of action.  EXAMPLES: The right of a creditor to be paid; the right of an unpaid creditor to recover in a lawsuit. [3]

     Excerpt from Termes de la Ley 85 (1st Am ed. 1812):

      “Chose, or, thing in action is, when a man hath cause, or may bring an action for some duty due to him; as an action of debt… and because they are things whereof a man is not possessed, but for recovery of them is driven tto his action, they are called things in action.

     Excerpt from William R. Anson’s Principles of the law of Contract 362 n.(b) (Arthur L. Corbin ed. 3d Am. ed. 1919):

     “The term chose in action has been in common use for a long time, but some doubts have been recently raised as to its precise meaning. (See Law Quarterly Review for 1893, 1894, 1895.)  A divisional Court, however, has now given us the following definition: “chose in action” is a known legal expression used to describe all personal rights of property which can only be claimed or enforced by action, and not by taking physical possession.’  Torkington v. Magee, [1902] 2 K.B. p 430.  The phrase ‘rights of property’ does not seem a very happy one, but it is quite clear that the court meant to include under the term chose in action rights under a contract and rights of action arising from breach of contract.

    Note: a chose of action or cause of action is considered a form of incorporeal property:

incorporeal property – a property interest in a legal right, having no physical (tangible) existence, but recognized at law.


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Edwin E. Bryant, The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure 170 (2d ed. 1899).


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6 

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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