A Cause of Action Usually Means A Legal Basis for a Lawsuit

A cause of action usually refers to a legal category or legal theory on which someone bases a lawsuit.  Remember, “action” means a lawsuit.  Cause of action means the legal grounds for the lawsuit, such as breach of contract or tort.

For example, in the illustration below the pedestrian’s “cause of action” against the driver will be the tort of negligence because the driver carelessly injured the pedestrian while he was crossing the street.

In some cases, a party might assert multiple causes of action for one injury.  For example, a plaintiff might argue that he has a cause of action for breach of contract  because the defendant broke a promise.  In the alternative, the plaintiff might also claim to have a cause of action for fraud because the defendant lied when he made his promise.


What does it Mean if there is “No Cause of Action”?

If you hear someone say, there is ‘no cause of action’, he probably means that the facts presented would not support a lawsuit.

For example, if David beats Perry in golf and Perry’s feelings are hurt, we would say these facts do not give rise to a cause of action because David does not have a legal responsibility to prevent Perry’s feelings from being hurt by beating him in golf.

“No cause of action” could also mean that the courts do not recognize as legitimate a certain category or type of claim.    For example, let’s say David asks Debbie to join him in committing a fraud against Perry.  But Debbie does not join David in his plan.

Perry probably cannot sue David for “attempted conspiracy” because there is no cause of action for attempting to conspire with someone.  If Debbie had agreed to join with David, Perry could have sued them both for fraud and perhaps for conspiracy because those are real causes of action.  But attempted conspiracy is not a recognized legal basis to bring a lawsuit.

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