Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary

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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. A complaint often states multiple causes of action, and each cause of action is made up of certain required elements -- for example, a cause of action for breach of contract must show offer, acceptance, transfer of something of value, and breach of the agreement.