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Shabbat Parashat Korach 5779

P'ninat Mishpat: Firing a Contractor part IV

(based on ruling 75104.2 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: Plaintiff 2 (=pl2) was the contractor for major renovations of the defendant’s (=def) home; plaintiff 1 (=pl1) was the supervisor. Pl2 was well behind schedule and was fired by def. [Over the last three installments, we presented that def had the right to fire pl2, determined how to appraise the amount pl2 should receive for the work already done, and discussed a variety of damages. We continue with damages that are not damages to a specific object but are more general.] Def claims around 20,000 shekels for being forced to live in a house that was in poor condition for a long time, which caused great discomfort and psychological distress. She also demands 10,000 shekels for the job being finished late and 2,800 shekels for the delay in preparing the adjacent housing unit, which earns 2,800 shekels a month rent.  


Ruling: Regarding living in a home that was in disrepair for a long time, we generally accept the description of the difficulties. On the other hand, we must point out that with a relatively minor advancement of pay to other workers after deciding that pl2 would not continue, def could have solved most of the serious problems. Her decision not to do so should not obligate pl2 to pay. We also generally do not levy payments for causing distress. Therefore, the compensation to def for not getting the job done at the time that it should have will be addressed within consideration of how much pl2 deserves for the work that he did do.

Regarding the loss of income from the housing unit that was delayed in being constructed, we say the following. The halacha, regarding whether damage payments are due for preventing one from receiving profits that he was hoping for, is complicated (see a survey in Eretz Hemdah-Gazit’s ruling 70072). Some poskim say that if the profits could be relied upon without the need for any special skill or good luck, then one who prevents this “sure thing” is obligated (see Machaneh Ephrayim, Ribbit 41). Because the sides signed our arbitration agreement, which gives beit din the authority to obligate payment even in cases of lost profits when it views this as just, we decide to obligate pl2 for half of the month of lost rent that def claims. Regarding the delay in being able to move back to the home, since the sides did not set a payment schedule and def did not specify actual monetary damage that emerged from it, we will not require payment.

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