LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: Choses in action by Dr AbdelGadir Warsama, Legal Counsel

Dr AbdelGadir Warsama, Legal Counsel

In law, your property is either “Choses in Possession” or “Choses in Action”.  Chose in possession is the money in your pocket now while chose in action is the money in your bank account which you can have after your action to claim it from your bank. 

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However, in its widest sense the term “chose in action”, covers all forms of incorporeal property (tangible property as opposed to intangible property in intellectual property) including shares in companies, patents, copyrights, and the like.

The early definitions of a chose in action lay emphasis on the notion of a mere right of a personal action in respect of some defined subject matter such as a right of action for a debt, salary, covenant rights and so on. The definition includes many instruments as bills, notes, cheques, shares in companies, stocks in funds, bills of lading and insurance policies. But many of these documents were in effect documents of title to what was in substance an incorporeal right of property.

Hence it was not difficult to include in this category things which were even more obviously property of an incorporeal type, such as patent rights and copyrights. Moreover, “chose in action” is a known legal expression used to describe all personal rights of property which can only be claimed or enforced by action and not by taking physical possession.

However, some choses in action are capable of enjoyment without legal action necessarily being taken, they include all contractual and quasi-contractual rights, negotiable instruments, debts, mortgage debts, debentures, dividends, rights of rent, indemnities, shares, insurance policies, bills of lading, incorporeal chattels including patents, copyrights. Also, equitable rights, including trusts and trust funds, legacies, shares under an intestacy, and reversionary interests in trust funds.

Whereas, some choses in action are incapable of enjoyment without legal action, they include rights to sue for unliquidated damages for the breach of contract and tort, claims against company directors for misfeasance and the lessee’s right of relief against forfeiture for non-payment of rent, etc.               

The action, here, could be easy and mere request suffices. However, sometimes there is a need to pursue legal action before Courts and follow the lengthy legal procedure and complicated process. By all means, you have to know your legal rights and look for them the right way in the right time.

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