189 Va. 1, 52 S.E.2d 135 (Va 1949)
Plaintiff and Defendants were involved in an auto accident. Plaintiff brought action against Defendants for the property damages that he suffered in the accident. After Plaintiff prevailed in that lawsuit, he brought another action against the same Defendants for his personal injuries.
Defendants moved to dismiss the second action, but the trial court denied that motion.
The issue presented on appeal was whether the subject accident gave rise to two separate causes of action — one for property damage and another for personal injuries. The appellate court ruled in the affirmative.
The court followed the minority “primary rights” view under which property damages and personal injuries are two separate and distinct types of damages. The court reasoned that the number of a plaintiff’s rights determine the number of causes of actions because a plaintiff usually acts not to punish a defendant but to preserve his own rights.
Under the majority view, all damages arising out of a single incident must be brought together as one cause of action.
Kiser v. A.W. Chesterton Co., 285 Va. 12 (2013):
If the act itself is regarded as the ground of the action,” and thus cannot be “legally severable from its consequence, a single wrongful act may not give rise to two independent causes of action. See Shortt v. Hudson Supply & Equip. Co., 191 Va. 306, 310, 60 S.E.2d 900, 902 (1950) (A plaintiff injured in an automobile accident “had but a single claim—an indivisible cause of action for damages for his personal injuries arising out of the collision.”); Carter v. Hinkle, 189 Va. 1, 4, 52 S.E.2d 135,136 (1949) (“[A]s a general rule a single cause of action cannot be split into several claims and separate actions maintained thereon.”). The indivisible cause of action rule governs how many causes of action arise from a single wrongful act that violates a single right of a plaintiff; the rule applies to actions based on injury to the person regardless of how the person was injured. “The number and variety of facts alleged do not establish more than one cause of action so long as their result is the violation of but one right by a single legal wrong.”