What is “voluntary” or “mutual” combat,” you may be asking yourself? If so, it’s likely because you were watching this video, starring Seattle’s Phoenix Jones, mixed-martial-arts and citizen-crime fighter. In it, Jones, in front of police, calls upon something known as “mutual combat” before making short work of a man God gave more mouth than sense. The set-up is as follows:
Phoenix Jones, Midnight Jack, Red Falcon, Bishop and Westlake Drake are on a routine patrol of the University District when they come across a man yelling at a car. The suspect, out side of the car in the orange shirt, starts punching the window of the car scaring the passengers of the vehicle. Phoenix steps in, stops the assault while Red calls 911.
Phoenix Jones and his crew start to walk away, while being followed by the angry man in the orange shirt, who keeps telling them they had better walk away. Eventually, Jones suggests that, Washington being a mutual combat state, they settle their differences like gentlemen — one of whom, it will become clear, is an MMA fighter and one of whom is not. The dubiousness of this strategy is evidenced when Jones is set upon by another angry man. Join the discussion of the case’s merits.
It turns out that “mutual combat” is indeed a legal thing. ExpertLaw explains:
Where the plaintiff voluntarily engages in a fight with defendant for the sake of fighting and not as a means of self-defense, the plaintiff may not recover for an assault or battery unless the defendant beat the plaintiff excessively or used unreasonable force. If two people voluntarily enter a brawl, it is unlikely that either will be able to sue the other. However, if one falls, and the other takes advantage of the situation by kicking him and causing injury, that act may well be considered to be an excessive use of force which would support a cause of action.
If you’re wondering, the primary purpose of a mutual combat law seems to be to allow people to spar or fight without someone suing later. (It helps Cappy’s Boxing Gym stay in business.) The state’s generosity here is often restricted by local municipalities, so do your research before you go around fisticuffing the unruly. Seattle’s municipal code spells out that fighting in a public place cannot risk injury to a third party, or damage to any third party’s property.
Of course, given all the screaming and profanity, it could be argued everyone should have been arrested for disturbing the peace, regardless of the question of assault.