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Shabbat Parashat Behar Bechukotai | 5769

Pninat Mishpat: Mistaken Public Mechila

(based on Halacha Psuka, vol. 57- condensation of a p’sak by the Beit Din of Itamar)


Case: The plaintiff (=pl) ran a private nursery in a yishuv (=def). Pl had a worker (=#3) who also ran a crafts club on the yishuv. #3 suggested to pl to order supplies based on a budget def promised for her club’s supplies, with remaining funds going to her club. Pl acquired supplies, two thirds of which went for the nursery. Pl wants def to reimburse her as #3 promised, saying that she wouldn’t have bought the extra supplies from her own funds. Def responds that #3 was not authorized to share her budget. However, since there were good intentions, def agreed to pay for two thirds of the promised budget, with pl and #3 carrying the other third. After paying its share and pl’s refusal to pay the other third, def now wants to recover the two thirds.


Ruling: Pl’s use of the supplies without realizing its significant is parallel to the following case (Ketubot 34b). A man borrowed a cow and died, and his inheritors, who thought they received it from their father, ate it. They were required to pay the value of cheap meat. The Rashba (III, 96) says that this is two thirds of meat’s normal price. The K’tzot Hachoshen (246:2) learns from here that when one receives benefit from another’s property, even unwillfully, he must pay for it. Therefore, even if pl bought the supplies only because of the prospect of reimbursement, she still has to pay partially for using them – 2/3 (rate) * 2/3 (material used).

Pl says that any payment levied on her should be transferred to #3, who misled her. This is similar to the discussion of one who accepted a certain currency based on bad advice from a moneychanger. The advisor is exempt if the advice was given by an expert for free (Shulchan Aruch, CM 306:6) or if it is not evident that the advisee relied upon him. The Rosh (BK 9:13) says that the moneychanger is exempt if the advisee had the opportunity to ask someone else also. The Maharshal and Shach (306:12) concur, but the Shiltei Giborim cites a machloket. In our case, pl should have asked def’s secretariat if she could expect reimbursement, and, therefore, her claims against #3 depend on that machloket. Furthermore, #3 acted with good intentions, and according to the opinion that one who causes semi-direct damages (garmi) has to pay as a penalty, this is only for intentional damage (Shach, CM 386:1). Based on these doubts, pl cannot extract money from #3.

Regarding def’s withdrawal from its voluntary payment, they cannot recover their money. The Mayim Amukim (II, 63) rules that a community that relinquishes rights in a thought-out manner may not back out even if their decision was based on an incorrect assessment. In this case, even if def agreed only because they thought pl would accept the settlement, they must keep their commitment. Pl, though, must pay the suppliers the other third. 




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