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Many fights start out benign but evolve into something more dangerous. For example someone responds to a shove with a punch to the gut, and he responds with a punch to the fight, and it escalates.

Say Joe and Bob are get in an argument and Joe shoves Bob. Bob punches Joe and Joe hits him back. Can Bob sue Joe because Joe technically touched Bob first by pushing him?

I know self defense is only valid if reasonable force is used, but how exactly does this work? For example if Bob hit Joe and Joe hit him back and knocked him out, just because Joe won the fight doesn't mean that he loses in court?

  • Well we don't need a jurisdiction. For example, in the scenario described it sounds like every blow was an act of retaliation, not defense, and therefore both parties could be charged with battery. I don't see any nuance here that requires a jurisdiction. – feetwet Apr 22 '16 at 22:03
  • @feetwet how can both be charged with assault and sue each other? Wouldn't just one party owe the other the difference? – Jankin Apr 24 '16 at 2:11
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Regarding criminal charges: In the scenario described it sounds like every blow was an act of retaliation, not defense, and therefore both parties could be charged with battery.

The text of the question also asks about one fighter suing another, which would presumably be under personal injury torts. If they like beating each other up in court with legal costs as much as they did with physical blows, they could cause each other a lot of financial damage via civil process. However, the outcome of such a legal battle would depend in the extreme on the exact circumstances of the fight as well as all the variables the go into a trial: the court, the jurisdiction, the jury, and even the skill of each side's lawyers.

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I am not in your jurisdiction (New Zealand), but the criminal laws around this subject are similar in Australia, US and UK.

Here provides for the offence of "Fighting in a Public Place" (http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1981/0113/latest/whole.html#DLM53522) s.7 Summary Offences Act 1981.

A fight, typically would be two people trading punches on a relatively even basis - each punch being an assault in itself. Punching back a person who has just punched you would be a legitimate act of self defence (see s.48 of NZ Crimes Act 1961).

Once self defence becomes a live issue it is for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was not self defence. If what began as self defence mutates into retaliation then the person may be properly convicted of fighting or something more serious (see below)

Also in a typical scenario, one person gets the better of the other, when the person who is loosing (person A) falls to the ground and then gets kicked in the head by person B - this is no longer a fight, no claim of self defence can reasonably be made and person B could be charged with some sort of assault (or battery as you call it - we just have assault).

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