Q. What is a cause of action?
A cause of action is the specific legal right -- triggered by the case’s facts – that entitles plaintiff to sue (e.g. foreclosure or fraud). In practice, courts and lawyers use “claim” and “cause of action” interchangeably. Also the terms “count” (e.g., “Count IV of the complaint”) and “legal theory” loosely serve as synonyms for “cause of action.”
A case’s facts can implicate more than one cause of action against a single or multiple defendants. And plaintiff is authorized to plead causes of action in the alternative.
New York Civil Practice Before Trial § 15:162 Cause of Action
- CPLR 3013, 3014 cover how cause of actions claims should be organized in papers filed with the court.
Subject treatises go into causes of actions. For example, in Residential landlord Tenant Law in New York –searching the text with the term “cause of action” turns up fifty-eight sections that mention the term and applicable tenant-landlord laws.