As a general rule, a single cause of action cannot be split into several claims and separate actions maintained thereon.
A taxicab owned and driven by plaintiff was involved in a head-on collision with an automobile owned by the defendant, Smith, and operated by his agent, defendant, Carter. The taxi was damaged and an action was instituted by the plaintiff against the defendant owner for $1,000. Judgment was recovered by plaintiff, the full amount paid thereon and it was marked satisfied. Plaintiff instituted another action against the two named defendants seeking to recover for personal injuries received by him by reason of the collision. The court permitted the case to go to the jury. A verdict was returned in favor of the plaintiff for the sum of $1,000, and judgment was entered,. On review, the court affirmed both the personal injury and the property damage judgments in favor of plaintiff.
May one who has suffered both damage to his property and injury to his person as the result of a single wrongful act maintain two separate actions therefor?
The court affirmed the judgments and held that an injury to the person and one to the property, even though they resulted from the same tortious act, constituted different causes of action. The court determined that when a tortfeasor committed a tort that resulted in both personal injury and property damage there was nothing unreasonable in prosecuting separate actions against him. Two separate kinds of injury were in fact inflicted, and two wrongs were committed. The court decided that at common law the rule was that two actions could have been maintained and that the state legislature had not seen fit to change or alter the common law in that respect.