The ''Primary Rights'' Principle
In Hindin v. Rust (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 1247, the Court reviewed and stated the primary rights principle as follows:
"Whether a complaint in fact asserts one or more causes of action for pleading purposes depends on whether it alleges invasion of one or more primary rights. 'The primary rights theory is a theory of code pleading that has long been followed in California. It provides that a "cause of action" is comprised of a "primary right" of the plaintiff, a corresponding "primary duty" of the defendant, and a wrongful act by the defendant constituting a breach of that duty. The most salient characteristic of a primary right is that it is indivisible: the violation of a single primary right gives rise to but a single cause of action. ' (Crowley v. Katleman (1994) 8 Cal.4th 666, 681 (Crowley) suit for malicious prosecution lies for bringing an action charging multiple grounds of liability when some but not all of those grounds were asserted with malice and without probable cause.) 'As far as its content is concerned, the primary right is simply the plaintiff's right to be free from the particular injury suffered. It must therefore be distinguished from the legal theory on which liability for that injury is premised.' (Ibid.)
"The manner in which a plaintiff elects to organize his or her claims within the body of the complaint is irrelevant to determining the number of causes of action alleged under the primary right theory. 'If a plaintiff states several purported causes of action which allege an invasion of the same primary right he has actually stated only one cause of action. On the other hand, if a plaintiff alleges that the defendant's single wrongful act invaded two different primary rights, he has stated two causes of action, and this is so even though the two invasions are pleaded in a single count of the complaint.' (Skrbina v. Fleming Companies (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1353, 1364.)
Specifically in the context of a malicious prosecution action the Supreme Court has explained, 'When a complaint alleges multiple theories of liability or "counts," the counts "are merely ways of stating the same cause of action differently."
Accordingly, the only way a litigant can show probable cause for the cause of action as a whole--or for the "primary right"--is to show probable cause for each of the counts or theories alleged. In this event the whole is indeed the sum of the parts.' (Crowley, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 683, fn. 11; and see Jenkins v. Pope (1990) 217 Cal. App. 3d 1292, 1299, fn. 3, 'Violation of a single primary right gives rise to only one cause of action, even if a plaintiff has various forms of relief or theories of relief available'.)" (Hindin v. Rust, supra, 118 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1257-1258.)