Hart v. Geysel – Case Brief
Hart v. Geysel, 159 Wash. 632, 294 P. 570 (1930).
Facts: Cartwright (represented by administrator Hart (P)) was killed in an illegal prize fight against Geysel (D). There was no anger or any malicious intent to injure and they both consented to the fight. Hart sued Geysel for wrongful death and the trial court dismissed the complaint. Hart appealed.
Issue: May a wrongful death action be maintained against a party who causes the death of another in an illegal fight in which there was no anger or malicious intent to injure and in which both parties consented?
Holding and Rule: No. A wrongful death action may not be maintained against a party who causes the death of another in an illegal fight in which there was no anger or malicious intent to injure and in which both parties consented.
The majority rule is that both parties that engage in combat in anger are liable to each other. The minority rule is that neither party that engages in mutual combat in anger may recover from the other. The key elements in these cases was the engagement in mutual combat in anger.
The court held that in this case the fight was illegal, but there was no malicious intent or anger or use of excessive force. The court held that as a matter of public policy a wrongdoer who engages in an illegal prize fight should not have the right to recover damages and receive a civil windfall, and that barring recovery deters the wrongful activity.
Disposition: Judgment affirmed.
See Hudson v. Craft.