Shabbat Parashat Miketz | 5768
Payment to Worker’s for a Flawed Job - Based on Halacha Psuka - vol. 35 - Condensation of a p’sak of Beit Din Gazit, Be’erot Yitzchak
Case: The defendant (=def) is a yishuv which hired the plaintiff (=pl) to take care of the lighting and sound systems for an event for 7,500 shekels. Both systems malfunctioned at the event. There are mutual complaints by the sides as to whose equipment and/or mistakes were the crucial factors that caused the problems. Despite sending an expert witness to evaluate the situation, beit din cannot determine who is to blame for which problem, but there were problems in the information that def provided pl that could result in sound problems. Does def have to pay in full for incomplete results?
Ruling: The Shulchan Aruch (CM 333:1) rules that if a worker did not end up doing the work he was hired for because, despite the employer’s best efforts, something arose to make the work unnecessary, the workers do not get paid for work they did not do. On the other hand, he rules (335:2) that if a worker was sent to bring a package and it was not where it was supposed to be, he is paid for his efforts. What is the difference? The Aruch Hashulchan (335:14) says that in the latter case, his main job is going back and forth to point A, which he did, although the purpose of the job was not accomplished. In contrast, in the former case, the main job was the work in the field, not the trip to the field, and in this case the work was not accomplished. The Netivot Hamishpat (ad loc.:2) distinguishes between that which the worker already did as instructed as a worker by time and that which he did not have the opportunity to do. When the gemara says that the work is not paid, it is referring only to that part of the job that he was not able to do. He says (ibid.:3) that even in regard to the part that he toiled but was unsuccessful in completing, if it was due to circumstances that stem from the worker (even if he was not negligent) he is not considered as working as instructed by the employer and does not receive pay. Therefore, only if the problem was due to def’s infrastructure would pl get paid and then only for expenses and toil, not for the desired results which never were met (if the employer was not at fault either).
In this case, regarding the sound system, def was at fault and must pay in full. Regarding the lighting there is doubt as to what happened. In such a case, where there was definite toil and there is doubt as to whether he lost his right to be compensated for it, def has to pay for that effort. Regarding the price of results, since there were incomplete results and only a doubt as to whether def is to blame for it, he does not get paid for the results without proof. Beit din did not hire an expert to figure the exact value sums of each element because that would have cost the parties more than the information would be worth to the parties and, therefore, beit din made rough estimations.
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