Cause of Action

Here’s everything you must know on cause of action in a lawsuit. The fundamentals, things to keep in mind while preparing CoA, common types, compensation & settlements, and more!

What is Cause of Action?

A cause of action, also known as a right of action, is used to seek legal remedies in lawsuits. It is a legal claim that allows the plaintiff, or the party seeking the legal remedy, from a person, organization, or entity due to various factors such as:

  • Act of negligence
  • Intentional fraud or misrepresentation of data
  • Breach of confidentiality, trust, or contracts
  • Failure to perform a duty promised

Cause of Action is used to carry out legal action against a party that justifies the grounds for suing an entity. Usually, the trial commences after the cause of action has been established.

The elements or components of a cause of action include statutes, regulations, judicial precedent, and constitution.

Implied cause of action refers to cases where the court decides on the legal remedy, as no law explicitly provides it. A statutory claim of action is usually tied to the sales of goods & services.

These depend on regulations and laws already defined, such as warranty claims.

If the seller of the goods by any means tries to misrepresent any details relating to a product and thereby causes damage or pain & suffering to the plaintiff, the latter can pursue a legal remedy, commonly as monetary compensation, from the seller.

Cause of Action legal term glossary definition.

What are Different Kinds of Cause of Action?

The following are some broad categories of cause of action. To prove a cause of action, the plaintiff must show proof where terms of condition, law, or consent agreements have been broken.

Examples of Cause of Action:

  • Contract Breach
  • Fraud or Tort(Negligence, assault, or intentional harm)
  • Defamation
  • Equity
  • Statutory

In contract breaches cause of action, the defendant has failed to meet the set conditions in a contract. The attorney collects all information of the two parties involved and highlights the broken clauses in the contract in this scenario.

In fraud or tort CoA, the defendant has intentionally fabricated statements/documents/collaterals to motivate the plaintiff to take action in their favor.

The misrepresentation has caused the plaintiff monetary, physical, or emotional damages for which they seek legal remedy. Negligence CoA is common in medical practice cases where the defendant has failed to do their duty intentionally or otherwise, which has caused the plaintiff harm.

Defamation CoA constitutes a false/offensive/misguided statement made by the defendant to a third party that has caused damages to the plaintiff, particularly on their reputation. Equitable actions are claims based on fairness.

These legal remedies are passed to provide fair compensation or to uphold justice for a plaintiff. In this scenario, there is usually no contract binding the two parties.

Can You File a Cause of Action in Any Court?

The cause of action must be filed in the proper county where the incident has occurred. Generally, a plaintiff can sue in a county or jurisdiction where the defendant resides or has a place of business for commercial cases.

What is the Limitation Period For Cause of Action?

The statute of limitation is the deadline before which a lawsuit must be filed. For the cause of action, the statute of limitation can vary based on its nature, sometimes from one state to another.

For instance, a breach of an oral contract has a limitation period of 2 years from the time the contract was broken, while for a written contract, this is up to 4 years. For Medical malpractice or negligence, it can vary from 1 year to 3 years.

How to Prepare Cause of Action in a Lawsuit?

Preparing for a cause of action requires identifying & outlining the harm on or incurred by the plaintiff, the clauses or factors violated by the defendant, and the appropriate legal remedy for rectification.

For the lawsuit to stand, the CoA and evidence must be strong & coherent. Attorneys usually keep the following checklist in mind while preparing CoA, which is the crux of the lawsuit:

  • Establish the legal right of the plaintiff over the issue: This is the juncture that proves how the legal rights of the plaintiff have been violated due to the act of the defendant. With this, the necessity for the lawsuit is established.
  • Determining the clauses and actions of the defendant that has deterred from the expected course: This includes intentional actions that could harm the interests of the plaintiff, violating the duty to protect the plaintiff from harm, and intentional misconduct on the part of the defendant.
    It also extends to any breach of contract between the two parties from the defendant’s side, failure to perform duties by the defendant, and any and all malicious intents to cause harm to the plaintiff.
  • Damages: This outlines the basis for which the plaintiff seeks compensation. To understand the nature of the compensation & what it is worth, it is necessary to gauge the damages caused to the plaintiff due to the defendant’s actions. This can be Compensatory, General, or Punitive damages.
    • Compensatory damages are the most common kind, where a monetary sum is assigned to the plaintiff from the defendant. General damages are added along with compensatory and are not describable in the conventional sense. For instance, due to medical negligence, the plaintiff is unable to earn or look after themselves.
    • Punitive damages serve as a means to punish the defendant’s egregious conduct, i.e., beyond reasonable measure and hopefully act as a deterrent for others doing the same behavior in the future.It is not easy to attain this for the plaintiff since they must produce an extensive burden of proof to meet the legal requisites.
  • Legal Remedy: It is not sufficient for the plaintiff to establish an actionable wrongdoing but also furnish the damages sustained. With this, the legal remedy is decided as per the existing law or by the court if no existing law is dictating it.

Can a Court Dismiss an Unplead Cause of Action?

No, a court cannot dismiss an unplead cause of action of a plaintiff.

What is the Difference Between a Claim and a Cause of Action?

A cause of action is a set of factual statements that comprises the basis for filing a lawsuit against a party. In some instances, there can be more than one cause of action. In the absence of a cause of action, the lawsuit would be baseless.

A claim is a section in the lawsuit where a plaintiff sought legal remedy for the action of the defendant. This can be a monetary compensation the plaintiff wants to recover, or rights to acquire an asset, or to avail of a service.

What does Dismissal of Action Mean?

Dismissal of action refers to the court terminating a case due to the defendant’s motion or do so sua sponte. After the Dismissal of Action, the defendant is no longer legally liable for the lawsuit.

What Does Cause of Action Accrue Mean?

For tort claims, “cause of action accrue,” or cause of action accrual, implies that the dates of all events that transpired for the negligent or intentional tort lawsuit were known or should have been known.

Since the legal remedy in tort claims is monetary and filed for financial relief from the defendant, the cause of action accrual is the date when the statute of limitations for how long the claimant can still file a suit for financial compensation begins to elapse.

Afterward, the plaintiff can no longer sue for their injuries and pain and suffering.

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: April 8, 2023 1:57pm CDT