The Cause of action
The ” popular ” meaning of the expression ” cause of action ” is that particular act on the part of the defendant which gives the plaintiff his cause of complaint. Strictly speaking, however, ” every fact which is material to be proved to entitle the plaintiff to succeed, every fact which the defendant would have a right to traverse, forms an essential part of the cause of action,” which ”accrues” upon the happening of the latest of such facts.
Consequently, in any particular case, “the cause of action,” strictly so called, can only be said to arise within a certain local area, when all such material facts arise within that area, when (as it is often stated somewhat tautologically) the ” whole ” cause of action so arises. Thus it was held that the purely common law jurisdiction of the Mayor’s Court in London and the county court jurisdiction under sect. 60 of the Repealed Statute of 1846, being in each case limited to causes of action arising within a particular area, did not attach unless the whole cause of action arose within that area.
It may, however, be that, upon the true construction of a given statute, the expression ” a cause of action ” ought to bear a narrower interpretation and be restricted to the popular meaning indicated above. Thus after several conflicting decisions upon sect. 18 of the Common Law Procedure Act, 1852, the Courts of Queen’s Bench and Common Pleas differing upon the point, it was finally held by a majority of all the judges that the expression in that section must be treated as bearing such narrower interpretation. With reference to the cases cited above as to the jurisdiction of the Mayor’s Court and county courts, it should be noted that sect. 12 of the Mayor’s Court Procedure Act, 1857 and sect. 74 of the present County Courts Act, 1888, make use arising wholly or in part” within the jurisdiction; these words are satisfied if any fact material, for the plaintiff to prove, e.g., non-payment of the debt sued for, or its assignment to him, or receipt of an order by post or telegraph, took place within the jurisdiction.
The question of whether some act gives rise to only one cause of action, or to a number of recurring causes of action in respect of recurring damage, is often of importance in determining the application of the Statutes of Limitation.
In Halsbury”s Laws of England (4th Edn.), the expression has been defined as follows: “Cause of action” has been defined as meaning simply a factual situation the existence of which entitles one person to obtain from the court a remedy against another person. The phrase has been held from earliest time to include every fact which is material to be proved to entitle the plaintiff to succeed, and every fact which a defendant would have a right to traverse. “Cause of action” has also been taken to mean that particular act on the part of the defendant which gives the plaintiff his cause of complaint, or the subject-matter of grievance founding the action, not merely the technical cause of action.”