”Chose in Action” – Money and Personal Property in California

In California a "chose in action," also known as a "thing in action," is statutorily defined as "a right to recover money or other personal property by a judicial proceeding." ( Civ. Code, § 953.)

In Goodley v. Wank & Wank, Inc. (1976) 62 Cal. App. 3d 389, the Court of Appeal explained that the Legislature in 1872 effected a change in the common law rule of nonassignability of choses in action by enacting Civil Code sections 953 and 954 (Civil Code section 953 provides: "A thing in action is a right to recover money or other personal property by a judicial proceeding.")

Civil Code section 954 provides: "A thing in action, arising out of the violation of a right of property, or out of an obligation, may be transferred by the owner."

"Thus a thing in action arising out of either the violation of a right of property or an obligation or contract may be transferred .

The construction and application of the broad rule of assignability have developed a complex pattern of case law underlying which is the basic public policy that ' "assignability of things in action is now the rule; nonassignability the exception" ' . ' "And this exception is confined to wrongs done to the person, the reputation, or the feelings of the injured party, and to contracts of a purely personal nature, like promises of marriage." ' Thus, causes of action for personal injuries arising out of a tort are not assignable nor are those founded upon wrongs of a purely personal nature such as to the reputation or the feelings of the one injured. Assignable are choses in action arising out of an obligation or breach of contract as are those arising out of the violation of a right of property ( § 954, Civ. Code) or a wrong involving injury to personal or real property." (Goodley, supra, 62 Cal. App. 3d at p. 393; see also 1 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law (9th ed. 1987) Contracts, § 933, p. 833 "Choses in action are assignable when they arise out of an obligation or out of the violation of a right of property.".)