Shabbat Parashat Pinchas| 5767
Misinformed Purchase of a Car - Based on Halacha Psuka - vol. 10 - A Condensation of a Psak by the Beit Din of Rechovot, found in Shurat Hadin VII, pp. 163-168
Case: The plaintiff (=pl)bought a used car for 50,000 shekels from the defendant (=def), according to the standard price list. A third party who bought the car from pl discovered that the car had been a company car, a fact that lowers its price value by 3,000 shekel. Pl now demands from def, who withheld this pertinent information, the 3,000 shekel he had to return to the third party. According to the pricing system, a car that was owned by a public company depreciates 15%, as opposed to 10% for a private company. Def admits that the car was owned by a company but says it was a private one. Pl says it was a public one.
Ruling: We reject payment for the claim that def caused pl damages when he resold the car because that is gerama (indirect damages). However, we must see if pl has a claim of mekach ta’ut (a purchase based on misinformation).
The Shulchan Aruch (CM 232:3) rules that if it becomes clear to the buyer only after the purchase of an object that it was flawed, the sale is void. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:6) clarifies that the sale is null only if the level of flaw is such that the people of the country agree that it is a flaw for which one backs out of a purchase. Otherwise, one cannot back out unless there was a stipulation, for whoever is involved in commerce without specification relies on the custom of the country. Beit din determined that there is not a clear custom to return a car if it had been a company car. Furthermore, in this case, pl agrees that he was not interested in voiding the sale, just in recovering money.
Regarding recovery of the overpricing of the car, note that even according to the plaintiff, the price difference was only 15%. The rule is that mispricing (ona’ah) of less than a sixth is not recoverable, as we assume that the buyer relinquishes his rights to ona’ah beneath this level. However, this case is different because of the Rama’s ruling (233:1, based on the Terumat Hadeshen). If one sells what was assumed to be high quality meat and it was lower quality, the sale stands but the seller must make up the price difference. The V’Shav Hakohen (64) infers from the Terumat Hadeshen that ona’ah is returned even if it is less that a sixth. Why should this case be different from other cases of ona’ah? It is apparently because of the concept that changes in size, weight and number are returned even if they are less than a sixth in difference. Rashi explains that a sixth is pertinent when the inaccuracy is related to pricing which is by its nature difficult to quantify. However, when it comes to a more definable inaccuracy, people are more likely to object. So too, regarding a factual matter like that of our case, one must assume that the buyer can demand compensation if he was unaware of the information which lowered the car’s value.
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Hemdat Yamim is dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.
May their memory be a blessing.