Carter v. Hinkle
52 S.E.2d 135 (Va. 1949)

  • Hinkle was driving a taxi that was involved in an accident with a car owned by Smith and driven by Carter.
  • Hinkle successfully sued Carter for the damage to the taxi and loss of revenue. The case was over.
  • Later Hinkle sued Smith and Carter again, but this time for personal injuries suffered during the accident.
    • Carter argued that the completion of the earlier case barred Hinkle from suing again for personal injuries.
    • The Trial judge permitted the case to go forward.
  • The Trial Court found for Hinkle and awarded him another $1k for personal injuries. Carter appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed the decision to have a second case.
    • The question was whether a single tort, resulting in damage to both person and property can give rise to two distinct causes of action, and does recovery for one bar subsequent action on the other.
      • The Appellate Court noted that the courts have been split on this issue, with a slight majority feeling that there is only one cause of action, and therefore a second suit would be barred on the basis of claim preclusion (aka res judicata).
      • The single cause of action rule helps to unclog courts from needless litigation and reduce the burden on defendants. (See Vasu v. Kohlers, Inc. (145 Ohio St. 321 (1945))).
        • aka the primary rights test.
      • On the other hand, different evidence may be required to support different claims, so it is unfair to the plaintiff for them to try to support all of their claims in a single action (See Brundsen v. Humphrey (L.R. 14 Q.B.D. 141 (1884))).
        • aka the single wrongful act test.
        • For example, personal injuries claims go away if the plaintiff dies, but property damage claims are assignable to the plaintiff’s heirs.
      • Restatement of Torts §24 suggests a pragmatic approach, focusing on whether the facts are closely connected in “time, space, origin, or motivation,” and whether “if taken together, they form a convenient unit for trial purposes.”
        • aka the transactional approach.
    • In this case, the Appellate Court basically agreed with Brundsen, saying that the plaintiff is permitted to unite both claims in the same action, but they are not compelled to do so.