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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi 5777

P'ninat Mishpat: Sub-Par Guest House Experience? part II

(based on ruling 73030 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) runs a guesthouse, which hosted a group of students in a program organized by an informal education resource organization (=def). Def’s representative #1 (later replaced by rep. #2), who had stayed at the guesthouse before, negotiated after receiving a brochure about pl’s services. The group came for Shabbat with approximately 40 people for a price of 4,500 shekels for lodgings and 2,500 shekels for food, after giving a 3,500 shekel down payment. The group came closer to Shabbat than envisioned, without the group’s leader, and complaints were raised about lack of room. Some students were supposed to sleep on mattresses, and bedding was available, but many slept without bedding or on the floor because they did not find them. The same is true of disposable utensils. Food was available for seuda shlishit as well, but the group did not take it. A representative of pl testified that on Friday, he showed a school staff member where all provisions were. Another major complaint was that pl did not have a kashrut certificate. (Some of the staff and of the girls did not eat pl’s food for that reason or because they did not like it). On Motzaei Shabbat, def refused to pay the fee’s balance (3,500 shekels) due to the things they claimed were missing (some will be mentioned in the ruling). Def is countersuing for 6,500 shekels – for return of the down payment and for the cost for an apartment that a staff member took for his family when he saw there was no room for them. While there were issues to be worked out between the school and def, they were not brought before beit din.

 

Ruling: [Last week we mentioned blame for def for not being a proper liaison between the school and pl and posited that kashrut certification for a religious proprietor should not be assumed.]

Beds – A guest house should have beds, not just mattresses, for all sleeping there, unless otherwise specified. However, pl claims to tell all that he has 25 beds and 60 mattresses, and it is agreed that he sent def’s representative a brochure stating this. Representative #2’s claim that pl said that very few would have to sleep on mattresses was not confirmed.

Bedding – There is agreement that pl told a school madricha that they were in a closet. It is not pl’s fault that they did not look for them or ask pl before he left, hours later.

Number of rooms – Pl did not promise more than existed and representative #1 had seen the premises. The teacher did not have a room because the bus driver, who was not scheduled to stay, took one.

Seuda shlishit – It apparently existed. The fact that the girls, who were already annoyed, decided to eat food they brought and/or no one looked in the refrigerator is not pl’s fault.

Serving and making beds – There is no evidence that pl committed to do so.

In summary, pl provides a low-level guest house package. There is no evidence he promised more. The fact that this did not live up to expectations and that there were misunderstandings that further took away from the school’s enjoyment falls primarily on def. Def must pay the remaining 3,500 shekels, and their counterclaims are rejected.

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