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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Brotherly Brawl Brought to Court Finally Fizzles

(CN) - A Louisiana man who lost a fistfight to his brother remained unsuccessful in court with an appellate panel throwing out his personal-injury claims.

Wayne and Reece Guillot worked together on the family's rice and crawfish farm since they were boys, and they served as best man at each other's weddings.

Tensions mounted, however, after Wayne left the farming business to become a crop duster.

During litigation to divide the partnership's property and equipment in 2008, Wayne loaded a crawfish boat that Reece used onto a trailer and drove away with it.

It was Palm Sunday, the start of the busiest week of crawfish season, according to the ruling.

As Reece followed, he called his son, Benjamin, who joined the chase and blocked the road with his truck.

Wayne's truck crashed in to Benjamin's, but Wayne managed to get around Benjamin's truck and keep going, with his brother and nephew in pursuit.

The chase ended with a physical altercation at Wayne's home. Both brothers claimed the other threw the first punch.

It is undisputed, however, that Reece dropped Wayne with a fist to the eye. Reece got on top of his brother and pounded him until Reece got tired of punching, according to the ruling.

With the bones around his left eye fractured, Wayne says he now has double vision and can no longer pursue his career as a crop-dusting pilot.

Wayne sued Reece for personal injuries, and sued Benjamin for damage to his truck. The jury ruled in Wayne's favor against Benjamin, but not against Reece because Wayne had "consented" to the brotherly brawl.

Wayne appealed, arguing that he did not consent to the fight and that Reece was the "sole aggressor."

Louisiana's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles affirmed for Reece, 2-1, on Dec. 17.

Though it was wrong for Reece to have followed and pummeled his brother, the trial court properly found that Wayne consented to the fight, according to the ruling.

"After he took the boat and arrived at his house, Wayne could also have easily remained in his truck or entered his home when he arrived there," Judge John Conery wrote for the majority. "Instead, he walked (or ran) to the back of his truck and confronted Reece." (Parentheses in original.)

Wayne is also not blameless since it "was wrong [for him] to go to the farm property and take a crawfish boat for which he had no immediate use when Wayne knew full well that Easter week was the peak of crawfish season and the boat was needed by Reece for the harvest," Conery added.

Judge Sylvia Cooks wrote in dissent that Wayne did not consent to "get in the ring and duke it out" with his brother.

"Nothing in the law permitted Reece and his cohort Benjamin to physically attack Wayne at his home after he retreated to its safety and summoned the police for help," Cooks wrote. "In this scenario, there is no element of either express or implied consent on Wayne's part."

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