A chose in action is essentially the right to sue. It is an intangible personal property right recognized and protected by law, has no existence apart from the recognition given to it by law, and confers no present possession of a tangible object.[i] In Hospital Serv. Corp. v. Pennsylvania Ins. Co., 101 R.I. 708, 709 (R.I. 1967), the court held that common law forbids assignment of causes of action for personal injuries.
However, in Summers v. Freishtat, 274 Md. 404, 409 (Md. 1975), the court held that “a chose in action in tort is generally assignable, in the absence of a statutory prohibition, if it is a right which would survive the assignor and could be enforced by his personal representative.” Therefore, assignment of choses in action is possible if not expressly prohibited by statutory or contractual provisions.
An assignment of a chose in action will not confer upon the assignee a right of action in his/her own name against the original debtor. But if either the debtor expressly promises to pay the assignee or the assignment is made with the debtor’s assent, then the assignee has the right to action in his own name.[ii] Further in Gillespie v. De Witt, 53 N.C. App. 252, 262 (N.C. Ct. App. 1981), the court held that “an assignment of a chose in action operates as a valid transfer of the title to the chose in action and the assignee becomes the real party in interest who may maintain the action in his or her own name.”