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Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel | 5768

A Worker Who Completed a Job With Permission

P'ninat Mishpat

(based on Halacha Psuka, vol. 39, condensation of a p’sak of Beit Din of Itamar)


Case: The defendant (=def) hired the plaintiff (=pl) to do excavating and dirt filling work at a building site for a set price. Def told pl that he should follow the architect’s instructions regarding all elements of his work. After doing arguably a complete job, pl asked the architect if he was finished with his work; he replied that he had, and so pl left with all of his heavy equipment. Therefore, he demands to be paid in full. Def claims that after measuring the site, it was clear that pl had not completed the job. The architect said that he had not been aware that pl was to follow his instructions and thus he had not meant to determine that pl had completed his responsibilities. Def had to make other arrangements to have the work finished and therefore wants to reduce the amount coming to pl.

Ruling: Since pl and def agreed that the architect would determine what needed to be done and he dismissed pl, def cannot complain about his work, even though the architect was unaware of this arrangement. He was def’s authorized representative, and the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 308:7) says that if an employer overloaded his worker and the worker became injured as a result, the former has to pay and cannot claim that the porter should have realized himself that the load was too heavy. Similarly, it was not pl’s responsibility to determine whether he had worked sufficiently but it was def’s through the auspices of his representative. The Ritva explains that the worker is allowed to rely on the employer’s judgment, for which he is responsible. If this is true in the case where the employee is himself carrying the load, it is all the more so regarding pl in our case.

One might want to claim that even if pl was not wrong for walking off the job, he still did not complete the job for which he was paid. However, the Shulchan Aruch (CM 335:3) says that if one was hired to bring certain food to a sick person and he died or recovered before the delivery came, the employer still has to pay, even though the goal of the job was not reached. Rather, the important thing is that the worker needs to do that which he was told to do, regardless of whether it ended being of full value.

The final question is whether the architect has to pay for damages caused by his early dismissal of pl. The Shulchan Aruch (CM 306:6) says that if one shows coins to a coin appraiser to verify its value and he over-estimated them, he has to pay damages to the person who relied upon him only when he was paid for the job. If he did it for free and he was a craftsman who could have been expected to do a proper job, he does have to pay. Since the architect was not assigned to his face to make these decisions nor was he paid for it, he is not responsible to pay for the mistakes that were caused when pl trusted his judgment.

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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


 Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of

Max and Mary Sutker

 and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

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