Attorneys
Worcester
Worcester
The Guaranty Building
370 Main Street, 12th Floor
Worcester, MA 01608
Framingham
Framingham
The Meadows
161 Worcester Road, Suite 501
Framingham, MA 01701
Boston
Boston
12 Post Office Square, 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
Providence
Providence
1 Richmond Square, Suite 303N
Providence, RI 02906
Cape Cod
Cape Cod
1597 Falmouth Road
Centerville, MA 02632
Hudson
Hudson
69 Main Street
Hudson, MA 01749
New Bedford
New Bedford
651 Orchard Street, Suite 107
New Bedford, MA 02744
Medfield
Medfield
Olde Medfield Square
266 Main Street, Bldg. 2, Suite 15A
Medfield, MA 02052
Practice Areas
Niche industries
Open detail
Cannabis & Breweries
Cannabis & Breweries
Open detail
Closely Held and Family-Owned Businesses
Closely Held and Family-Owned Businesses
Open detail
Condominiums
Condominiums
Open detail
Medical & Dental Practices
Medical & Dental Practices
Open detail
Private Foundations
Private Foundations
Open detail
Real Estate Developers
Real Estate Developers
Open detail
Restaurants
Restaurants
Open detail
All Industries
  • Multiple Dates

Estate Planning Webinar

Please join Fletcher Tilton Tax Attorney and Certified Elder Law Attorney Michael T. Lahti for this informative webinar discussing the important topics of Estate Planning and Elder Law.  Details for the next upcoming date.

SHOW ALL UPCOMING DATES

Learn More
Learn More
Learn More
Learn More
  • Wed. Nov. 10, 2021
  • 12:00-1:30 p.m.
 

The Arc of Massachusetts 2021-22 Transition Conference

Learn More

Learn More

View Past Seminars

Articles

Under What Circumstances Can a Civil Lawsuit Be Filed? An Introduction to Causes of Action

By Michael E. Brangwynne on September 15, 2020
Despite references in popular culture to the contrary, one cannot sue another, or be sued for that matter, for any reason at all. To be more precise, a person could file a civil lawsuit against another for any reason under the sun, but unless that individual’s lawsuit is based on an appropriate cause of action, there is a very strong likelihood it will be dismissed by the court in short order.

Causes of Action Generally

A cause of action, also known as a claim or a count, is a combination of facts sufficient to justify a right to sue to obtain money, property, or the enforcement of a legal right against another party. Causes of action can arise from the common law, which has been created over hundreds of years through the decisions of our courts, or they can be created by statute by the state or federal legislature.

A cause of action is the civil law equivalent of a crime. Much like the prosecutor in a criminal prosecution must prove certain elements to establish that a crime has been committed, so too the plaintiff (claimant) in a civil lawsuit must prove each of the elements of his or her cause of action to establish that the defendant is liable for damages.

Indeed, some causes of action closely resemble crimes, and have similar elements that must be proven. For example, battery has long been recognized as a civil cause of action under the common law. In order to establish a claim for battery in Massachusetts, the plaintiff must prove:
  1. an act by the defendant;
  2. with the intent to cause harmful or offensive contact;
  3. resulting in a harmful or offensive contact to the plaintiff.
For example, if David aimed a pistol at Patrick and fired a shot, striking Patrick in the leg, Patrick would have a legitimate cause of action against David for battery and could file a lawsuit against him. If Patrick could prove these facts in court to a jury - through eye witness testimony, video footage, or other evidence - then a jury could find David liable to Patrick for battery, and award Patrick monetary compensation for his damages, which might include medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

Defenses Generally

Under certain circumstances, even if a plaintiff can prove each element of his or her cause of action, the defendant may be able to establish additional facts that protect him or her from liability. Such assertions are known as affirmative defenses to a claim. Continuing with our example above, if David could show, through evidence, that he and Patrick were in fact friends and that Patrick had asked David to shoot him in the leg, then David could raise the defense of consent - that Patrick had consented to the otherwise harmful or offensive touching. By establishing these facts at trial, David could avoid a finding of liability, even where Patrick was able to prove each of the elements of his battery cause of action.

Why Is This Important?

You may be asking, “When is the chase, and can you please cut to it, counselor?” Simply put, there is no better way to avoid unwanted litigation or understand when you may need to initiate litigation than by becoming familiar with the most common causes of action. The purpose of this series is to explore some of the most common causes of action that the reader may encounter in his or her personal or professional life. By understanding the types of conduct that can give rise to liability, we can (1) avoid engaging in such conduct ourselves (and potentially prevent our employees from engaging in such conduct) and (2) recognize when others have engaged in legally actionable conduct and may be liable for harms that they have caused.


Michael E. Brangwynne is a Civil Litigation Attorney who practices primarily from Fletcher Tilton’s Boston and Worcester offices. He can be reached at mbrangwynne@fletchertilton.com and (617) 336-2281.


©2020. This material is intended to offer general information to clients and potential clients of the firm, which information is current to the best of our knowledge on the date indicated below. The information is general and should not be treated as specific legal advice applicable to a particular situation. Fletcher Tilton PC assumes no responsibility for any individual’s reliance on the information disseminated unless, of course, that reliance is as a result of the firm’s specific recommendation made to a client as part of our representation of the client. Please note that changes in the law occur and that information contained herein may need to be reverified from time to time to ensure it is still current. This information was last updated September 2020.

Please enter your name.
Please enter your email address.
Please enter your message.
Please solve the above multiplication.

You must attach a copy of the PDF application form linked above. You may add pages to the application, but the name of the file must remain the same.

Please attach Job_Application_Form.pdf
Subscribe to our newsletter.
First name is required.
Email is required.
Email does not match.
Publications
Please solve the above.
reCAPTCHA is mandatory
Welcome to fletcher tilton Online Invoice Payment Center.
Card holders name is required.
Please enter invoice number.
Please enter amount to be paid.
Please enter valid card number.
CCV code is required.
/
Please select expiration date.
Please enter your street address.
Please enter your city.
Please enter your state Code.
Please enter your postal code.
Please enter your contact number.
Please enter your email address.
Welcome to fletcher tilton Online Retainer Funding Center.
Card holders name is required.
Please enter a client number.
Please enter amount to be paid.
Please enter valid card number.
CCV code is required.
/
Please select expiration date.
Please enter your street address.
Please enter your city.
Please enter your state Code.
Please enter your postal code.
Please enter your contact number.
Please enter your email address.
Welcome to fletcher tilton Online Immigration Pre-Payment Center.
Bank account type is required.
Please enter a valid name.
Please enter amount to be paid.
Please enter client number.
Bank routing number is required.
Bank routing did not match.
Bank account number is required.
Bank account number did not match.
Please enter your street address.
Please enter your city.
Please enter your state Code.
Please enter your postal code.
Please enter your contact number.
Please enter your email address.
Welcome to fletcher tilton Online PAY BY CHECK.
Bank account type is required.
Please enter a valid name.
Please enter amount to be paid.
Please enter invoice number.
Bank routing number is required.
Bank routing did not match.
Bank account number is required.
Bank account number did not match.
Please enter your street address.
Please enter your city.
Please enter your state Code.
Please enter your postal code.
Please enter your contact number.
Please enter your email address.