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Hart v. Geysel

Citation. Hart v. Geysel, 159 Wash. 632, 294 P. 570
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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant was involved in an illegal prizefight with Cartwright, the administrator of whose estate was Plaintiff. Cartwright died as a result of injuries he sustained in the fight. There was no willful or malicious intent shown on the part of Defendant, and both participants were willingly involved in the prizefight.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Consent to invasion of a particular right prevents an action based upon such an invasion and one should not profit from his own misdeeds.


Plaintiff brought an action to recover for decedent Cartwright’s death at the hands of Defendant in an illegal prizefight. There is no evidence that Defendant intended to kill or severely injure Cartwright and both entered the fight willingly. The action was dismissed on the pleadings, and Plaintiff appealed.


Should the action have been dismissed because both parties to the prizefight entered into it willingly?


Yes. The dismissal was affirmed. Those who engage in prizefighting despite its illegality and are injured as a result should not be allowed to recover for any damages sustained.


The Court was called upon to adopt one of two views on this subject. The majority rule allowed recovery for such injuries, while the minority rule did not. Although the Court did not expressly adopt the minority rule, it clearly found it more appropriate in barring the action. The Court explained that such a rule both upholds general principles of consent as a bar to certain damages and does not allow one who engages in an illegal contest such as prizefighting to derive any benefit from such misdeeds.

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