Cause of Action

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The fact or combination of facts that gives a person the right to seek judicial redress or relief against another. Also, the legal theory forming the basis of a lawsuit.

The cause of action is the heart of the complaint, which is the PLEADING that initiates a lawsuit. Without an adequately stated cause of action the plaintiff's case can be dismissed at the outset. It is not sufficient merely to state that certain events occurred that entitle the plaintiff to relief. All the elements of each cause of action must be detailed in the complaint. The claims must be supported by the facts, the law, and a conclusion that flows from the application of the law to those facts.

The cause of action is often stated in the form of a syllogism, a form of deductive reasoning that begins with a major premise (the applicable RULE OF LAW), proceeds to a minor premise (the facts that gave rise to the claim), and ends with a conclusion. In a cause of action for BATTERY, the rule of law is that any intentional, unpermitted act that causes a harmful or offensive touching of another is a battery. This is the major premise and is stated first. Supporting facts, constituting the minor premise, appear after the rule of law. For example, a statement of facts for a case of battery might be "The plaintiff, while walking through ABC Store on the afternoon of March 11, 1998, was tackled by the defendant, a security guard for the store, who knocked the plaintiff to the floor and held her there by kneeling on her back and holding her arms behind her, while screaming in her ear to open her shopping bag. These actions caused the plaintiff to suffer injuries to her head, chest, shoulders, neck, and back." The cause of action concludes with a statement that the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff's injuries and that the plaintiff is entitled to compensation from the defendant.

The facts or circumstances that entitle a person to seek judicial relief may create more than one cause of action. For example, in the preceding example, the plaintiff might assert claims for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of CIVIL RIGHTS. She might also bring claims for negligent hiring (if the guard had a history of violent behavior which the store failed to...

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