Shabbat Parashat Va'eira 5778
P'ninat Mishpat: Unfulfilled Shidduch Expectations – part I(based on ruling 73064 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)
Case: The plaintiffs (=pl) hired a dating service (=def) to help find suitable matches for their son and daughter for 5,800 and 5,000 shekels, respectively, while hiding the source of the shidduch suggestions from the children. The contract stated that def would suggest potential matches and would give “advice” and that the fee was not refundable under any circumstances. Def suggested, through middlemen and through Facebook, several women for the son, and he dated one of them. Def suggested two men for the daughter, who refused to date either. She confronted her mother after sensing “collusion,” and after the mother admitted hiring def, the daughter refused to receive any more ideas. Pl demand a refund on several grounds: pl tricked them, as they were too inexperienced to know that def was unlikely to get their children married; the impossibility of a refund is illegal and an unreasonable condition in a set contract; pl were unaware of this condition; def involved pl in the ideas, which was not supposed to happen; def did not do a good enough job; the fee was well beyond industry standards. Def responds that their conditions were fair and clear. They are more professional than other agencies. It is not their fault that the daughter decided not to cooperate. They did not promise a certain amount of dates but to work professionally.
Ruling: Def are considered poalim, as opposed to kablanim because they are paid for doing work over time (a year) rather than being paid to reach a result.
We do not accept in an unqualified manner the contract’s clause that there are never grounds for refund. If we take that literally, then even if def put no effort into the matter, they would not have to return money; that is not plausible. Therefore, def has to demonstrate that they did an acceptable amount of productive work on pl’s behalf. The clause is to be accepted only in regard to not being able to demand a refund because the clients did not date enough of def’s suggestions, which is not always def’s fault.
In addition to suggesting matches, def claimed/admitted to have the obligation to advise. One who is paid to give advice can at times be required to pay when their advice clearly caused loss to his client. We do not say that the client should have known not to listen to bad advice (see Tosafot, Bava Kama 23a). The advice cannot have to do with giving dating advice to pl’s children because they were not even supposed to be aware of def’s involvement. Rather, they were required to give advice to pl, including about the viability of the service for a specific child. In regard to the daughter, pl claim they told def that their daughter is difficult in these matters (def does not remember) and in any case, they were required to find out if the service was feasible given the limitations and sensitivities concerning such clandestine work. In this way, def failed in their obligation. This is also similar to a case of one who hires a worker, and the job he was requested to do proves to be impractical, in which case the job is suspended.
On the other hand, pl can possibly be blamed for telling their daughter. Therefore, regarding the daughter, we rule that 60% of the fee should be returned.
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