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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi 5779

P'ninat Mishpat: Undelivered Windows part I

(based on ruling 71007 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiffs (=pl) were building a house and ordered custom windows from the defendant (=def). They told him that it was crucial that they receive them by the end of August, as soon thereafter they would be moving in. Pl was to pay half the cost at the time of signing the order and half at installation. Pl worked on finishing the details of the order in late June. Def asked many detailed questions, many of which pl argue were irrelevant and impossible for them to answer themselves. By the time all of this was worked out, def claimed it was too late for the order to come in a manner that the work would be done in time. Def agreed to install temporary windows to enable pl to move in, but demanded additional money up front. Pl refused and spent 10,000 shekels on having someone else install temporary windows. Pl demands that def install the windows they are supposed to for the original price and subtract from the money due to him the money they spent on temporary windows. They argue that it was def’s failure to handle his responsibilities on time that caused this outlay. They also claim approximately 50,000 shekels for expenses that the delay in installation caused them in finishing up the building project and for their need to extend their previous rental contract. Def demands money full payment for the windows that he already installed and compensation for the damage that the lack of payment impacted him in regard to cash flow.  


Ruling: The first question is: who is responsible for the delay in the order? The original delay in def’s coming to measure the exact size of the windows was due to def sitting shiva, which is an oness (extenuation circumstance) that would exempt him from paying damages. However, when def came, he still had enough time. Knowing pl’s time constraints, he had a responsibility to make sure that pl knew what answers he needed to give immediately in order to make the order in time. (It is clear from emails between the sides that pl did not indeed know, and that def made no effort to inform them.) Therefore, def was responsible.

There was a disagreement among the dayanim if def had a right to demand more money before the full installation because of the delay in the ability to install some of the windows. On the other hand, pl was wrong in not working out a compromise or going to mediation as things were unfolding, which could have reduced the damages to the sides. While this does not preclude pl receiving payments, in regard to those elements in which pl’s rights are based on compromise, this will be taken into account.

Next week we will look at for which elements of damage pl deserves payment, and how much.

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