Cause Of Action

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Cause Of Action


Quick Summary of Cause Of Action


A specific legal claim – such as for negligence, breach of contract or medical malpractice – for which a plaintiff seeks compensation. Each cause of action is divided into discrete elements, all of which must be proved to present a winning case.



What is the dictionary definition of Cause Of Action?

Dictionary Definition


n. the basis of a lawsuit founded on legal grounds and alleged facts which, if proved, would constitute all the “elements” required by statute. Examples: to have a cause of action for breach of contract there must have been an offer of acceptance; for a tort (civil wrong) there must have been negligence or intentional wrongdoing and failure to perform; for libel, there must have been an untruth published which is particularly harmful; and in all cases, there must be a connection between the acts of the defendant and damages. In many lawsuits, there are several causes of action stated separately, such as fraud, breach of contract, and debt, or negligence and intentional destruction of property.


Full Definition of Cause Of Action


In the law, a cause of action (sometimes called a claim) is a set of facts sufficient to justify a right to sue. The phrase may refer to the legal theory upon which a plaintiff brings suit (such as breach of contract, battery, or false imprisonment).

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.

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 defences must be raised at the first possible opportunity either in the answer or by motion or are deemed waived. A few defences, in particular a court’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction, need not be plead and may be raised at any time.


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Cause Of Action. PayrollHeaven.com. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. November 29, 2020 https://payrollheaven.com/define/cause-of-action/.
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Cause Of Action. PayrollHeaven.com. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. https://payrollheaven.com/define/cause-of-action/ (accessed: November 29, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Cause Of Action. PayrollHeaven.com. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from PayrollHeaven.com website: https://payrollheaven.com/define/cause-of-action/

Definition Sources


Definitions for Cause Of Action are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 26th April, 2020 | 1 Views.