Where a person suffers both personal injuries and property damage as a result of the same wrongful act, only a single cause of action arises, the different injuries occasioned thereby being separate items of damage from such act.
Plaintiff was injured in a motorcycle accident and prevailed on a claim for property damage against defendant city for failing to maintain the roadway. Plaintiff filed a second action for personal injuries, which was resolved in her favor based on res judicata. Defendant appealed the decision that awarded plaintiff damages for injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident based on res judicata and a prior adjudication that defendant negligently failed to maintain the roadway. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the decision, thereby overruling Vasu v. Kohlers, Inc., 145 Ohio St. 321, 61 N.E.2d 707.
Could the personal injuries and property damage suffered by plaintiff as a result of the same wrongful act give rise to distinct causes of action?
Plaintiff could not split her cause of action and file separate actions for property damage and personal injuries based on the same accident. The injuries to the person and property of plaintiff were the several results and effects of one wrongful act. A single tort could be the basis of but one action. It was not improper to declare in different counts for damages to the person and property when both result from the same tort, and it was the better practice to do so where there was any difference in the measure of damages, and all the damages sustained must be sued for in one suit. That was necessary to prevent multiplicity of suits, burdensome expense, and delays to plaintiffs, and vexatious litigation against defendants. The trial and appellate courts committed error in permitting plaintiff to split her cause of action and to file a separate action for her property damage and reduce same to judgment, and, thereafter, to proceed with a separate action for personal injuries, both claims arising out of a single accident.