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Shabbat Parashat Matot Masei 5777

P'ninat Mishpat: Unfulfilled Raffle Prize part I

(based on ruling 76024 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) spent 2,050 shekels on raffle tickets sold by an institution (=def); the first prize was a furnished four-room apartment. The drawing was held in Feb. 2012, and pl won the first prize and was supposed to receive the apartment within six months. However, the apartment was part of a property owned jointly by def and Reuven. They needed to have a redrawing of the property approved and then build an extra room. Due to a dispute between def and Reuven regarding stairs leading to the apartment, municipal permission def received was not usable, and as of 2015, the apartment is still not completed or transferred to pl’s name. Pl demands that def should transfer ownership to him and either build another room and provide furniture or pay their costs. Def responds that they are bound only to the raffle’s takanon (regulations), written before the drawing. Accordingly, if they are unable to complete building the apartment, they need to pay the raffle winner the amount of money they spent on the apartment or perhaps sell their portion of the property and give pl the proceeds after subtracting expenses.  

 

Ruling: Although there are both legal and halachic discussions on the matter, both sides agree that the conditions of the raffle are binding. This is correct halachically because raffles, despite their similarities to gambling, are an accepted fundraising tool, which work only if they are treated with integrity. Paying for a ticket is considered like a kinyan on the promised prizes.

The first question to be decided is whether the takanon is binding on pl, who never saw it before paying for his ticket, like everyone else who bought tickets. Def provided beit din with several advertisements of the raffle, which state that its conditions are according to its takanon. Even if some advertisements did not mention a takanon, pl failed to prove that his agreement with def was unconditional.

This being said, we must criticize def, otherwise a respected institution, for writing that the winner gets a furnished four-room apartment at a time when the property was jointly owned with a third party and did not have any working steps leading to it. Actually, at the time the takanon was written, def had not even signed a contract with the property seller.

It is possible to decide that the misrepresentation was serious enough to allow for mekach ta’ut (nullification of the sale). While this might help those who bought tickets and did not win, it is of no help to pl who wants an apartment worth around 2.5 million shekel and not the return of the 2,050 shekels he spent on tickets. Since the takanon was decided upon by def’s board, its existence was publicly known and it is accepted practice to have one, we rule that def is not obligated to a further extent than the takanon indicates.

We continue next time with other elements of the dispute.

 

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