Cause of action

Cause of action
Civil procedure in the United States
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In the law, a cause of action is a set of facts sufficient to justify a right to sue to obtain money, property, or the enforcement of a right against another party. The term also refers to the legal theory upon which a plaintiff brings suit (such as breach of contract, battery, or false imprisonment). The legal document which carries a claim is often called a Statement of Claim in English law, or a Complaint in U.S. federal practice and in many U.S. states. It can be any communication notifying the party to whom it is addressed of an alleged fault which resulted in damages from which it originates, often expressed in amount of money the receiving party should pay/reimburse.

To pursue a cause of action, a plaintiff pleads or alleges facts in a complaint, the pleading that initiates a lawsuit. A cause of action generally encompasses both the legal theory (the legal wrong the plaintiff claims to have suffered) and the remedy (the relief a court is asked to grant). Often the facts or circumstances that entitle a person to seek judicial relief may create multiple causes of action. Although it is fairly straightforward to file a Statement of Claim in most jurisdictions, if it is not done properly, then the filing party may lose his case due to simple technicalities.

There are a number of specific causes of action, including: contract-based actions; statutory causes of action; torts such as assault, battery, invasion of privacy, fraud, slander, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress; and suits in equity such as unjust enrichment and quantum meruit.

The points a plaintiff must prove to win a given type of case are called the "elements" of that cause of action. For example, for a claim of negligence, the elements are: the (existence of a) duty, breach (of that duty), proximate cause (by that breach), and damages. If a complaint does not allege facts sufficient to support every element of a claim, the court, upon motion by the opposing party, may dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

The defendant to a cause of action must file an "Answer" to the complaint in which the claims can be admitted, denied, or insufficient information to form a response. The answer may also contain counterclaims in which the "Counterclaim Plaintiff" states its own causes of action. Finally, the answer may contain affirmative defenses. Most defenses must be raised at the first possible opportunity either in the answer or by motion or are deemed waived. A few defenses, in particular a court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction, need not be plead and may be raised at any time.

See also


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • cause of action — 1: the grounds (as violation of a right) that entitle a plaintiff to bring a suit an amended pleading reiterating a cause of action for lost profits J. H. Friedenthal et al.; also: the part of a suit brought on those grounds removed the cause of… …   Law dictionary

  • cause of action — ˌcause of ˈaction noun causes of action PLURALFORM [countable usually singular] LAW a legally recognized reason for starting a legal action against someone: • You ve got to have a good cause of action and you ve got to plead it well. * * * cause… …   Financial and business terms

  • cause of action — n. Law the facts alleged in a complaint, upon which is based the plaintiff s right to a legal remedy in a court of law * * * …   Universalium

  • cause of action — n. Law the facts alleged in a complaint, upon which is based the plaintiff s right to a legal remedy in a court of law …   English World dictionary

  • cause of action — 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… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • cause of action — The fact or facts which give a person a right to judicial redress or relief against another. The legal effect of an occurrence in terms of redress to a party to the occurrence. A situation or state of facts which would entitle party to sustain… …   Black's law dictionary

  • cause of action — The fact or facts which give a person a right to judicial redress or relief against another. The legal effect of an occurrence in terms of redress to a party to the occurrence. A situation or state of facts which would entitle party to sustain… …   Black's law dictionary

  • cause of action — noun a claim sufficient to demand judicial attention; the facts that give rise to right of action • Topics: ↑law, ↑jurisprudence • Hypernyms: ↑claim * * * : the ground on which the plaintiff s case is based * * * cause of action (law) …   Useful english dictionary

  • cause of action — noun a) A condition under which one party would be entitled to sue another. If someone strikes you, then you have a cause of action for battery. b) A civil lawsuit …   Wiktionary

  • cause of action — Date: 15th century the grounds (as violation of a right) that entitle a plaintiff to bring a suit …   New Collegiate Dictionary


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