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Shabbat Parashat Beha'alotcha 5780

P'ninat Mishpat: A Defendant Continuing Adjudication after the Plaintiff Halted it

(based on ruling 77007 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) sued the defendants (=def), a rabbi and the organization he runs, for 126,360 shekels. During the beit din hearing, pl became agitated about def’s alleged lies and stormed out while saying that he was pulling his claim. After the hearing, def submitted a counterclaim against pl and other defendants (=otdef) to be held at our beit din, but otdef refuse to come to beit din. Def asked beit din for permission to sue pl and otdef in secular court, to confirm that pl had withdrawn his claim, to return to them the beit din fee of 9,825 shekels for their countersuit, and to receive compensation for the wasted time in beit din due to pl. Pl responded that he left beit din in anger and did not mean to pull his claim, nor is he willing to adjudicate in secular court. Def says that it is not fair for him to have to adjudicate on one issue in different places with different litigants. Pl also expressed disdain for def for not coming to the hearing but sending the organization’s lawyer to represent him instead, claiming that beit din was favoring def because he is a rabbi.   


Ruling: On the one hand, pl was mochel (relinquished) his claim with several statements, and he did not contact beit din with a retraction of the mechilla when he had a chance to calm down. However, he did not know at that time that he would have to continue the legal process because of the countersuit, and therefore the mechilla is not valid in the case that def wants to continue the adjudication.

Def have beit din’s permission to sue otdef in secular court. While we understand the desire to hold all related adjudication in one place, this does not override pl’s basic right to go to beit din. Therefore, it is def’s decision to choose between countersuing pl in beit din while defending themselves against pl’s claim or dropping their countersuit against pl.

Regarding the beit din fee, if they drop the countersuit, they will be reimbursed in full. If they want to lower their claim, they will get an incremental refund. In any case, we are charging pl for the beit din hearing which he halted by his unauthorized leaving. He is to pay 800 shekels to def and 600 shekels to beit din for expenses.

 To the extent that def would like to continue with the suit, pl can demand that def will himself come to beit din to represent himself in relation to matters about which he has specific knowledge. The fact that def was allowed to not be present at the first hearing is legitimate in this case on its merits, and pl does not have grounds to disparage def or beit din.

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