Rufus Hannah was one of three people involved in the 2002 video "Bumfights: A Cause For Concern" who participated in both criminal and civil lawsuits filed against the makers. The "Bumfights" series began when Rufus Hannah was living in La Mesa, California. At the time, Rufus Hannah was a homeless alcoholic. On the street, he met Ryan McPherson, one of four filmmakers behind the "Bumfights" series, who offered him $10 per dangerous stunt performed. These included fighting his best friend, Donald Brennan, with a severity that led to broken bones and extensive cuts all over their own bodies, as well as ripping their own teeth out and running headfirst into a series of crates and doors. Rufus Hannah and Brennan also had the word "bumfights" tattooed on him.
The video "Bumfights: A Cause For Concern" sold over 300,000 copies on the internet. As a result, a government investigation led to felony charges being filed that same year. The lawsuit was filed against Ryan McPherson, along with three other defendants: Zachary Bubeck, Michael Slyman and Daniel Tanner. In the course of trial, the charges against them were reduced by the judge to misdemeanor offenses. In 2003, all four pled guilty on charges of arranging a fight without obtaining a proper permit. All four were fined $500 and ordered to perform community service. When McPherson and Bubeck failed to complete their community service, they were sentenced to 180 days in jail.
Separate from the government action, in 2002 Rufus Hannah and Donald Brennan filed a civil action against all four of the defendants named above, as well as Ray Leticia, James McPherson, the production company InDecline Productions and the tattoo parlor which gave them their tattoos. In their complaint, Rufus Hannah and Brennan alleged that they had been given alcohol and drugs prior to being videotaped. In addition to the acts of self-harm they performed while intoxicated, Rufus Hannah and Brennan alleged that the actions taken by the defendants included burning their hair and restraining their arms and legs with duct tape, and thereby depriving them of their personal liberty.
The lawsuit went on to allege that Rufus Hannah and Brennan did not attempt to resist because they were afraid of the threat of physical harm committed by the defendants. With regards to the tattoo parlor, the lawsuit charged them with negligence in failing to comply with the law and tattooing intoxicated people who were incapable of giving informed consent.
The lawsuit sought compensation for Rufus Hannah and Brennan for damages in excess of $50,000, for the costs of medical and hospital injury incurred during the filming of the videos, for their legal expense, for punitive damages and for all other costs which the court saw fit to grant. The two were later joined in their lawsuit by a third video participant, Peter LaForte. The lawsuit was settled with an out-of-court settlement whose financial specifics were not made public.