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Shabbat Parashat Vaeira 5779

P'ninat Mishpat: Undelivered Windows part III

(based on ruling 71007 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiffs (=pl) were building a house and ordered custom windows from the defendant (=def). They told him that it was crucial that they receive them by the end of August, as soon thereafter they would be moving in. Pl were to pay half the cost at the time of signing the order and half at installation. Pl worked on finishing the details of the order in late June. Def asked many detailed questions, many of which, pl argue, were irrelevant and impossible for them to answer themselves. By the time all of this was worked out, def claimed it was too late for the order to come in a manner that the work would be done in time. Def agreed to install temporary windows to enable pl to move in, but demanded additional money up front. Pl refused and spent 10,000 shekels on having someone else install temporary windows. Pl demand that def install the windows he is supposed to for the original price and subtract from the money due to him the money they spent on temporary windows. They argue that it was def’s failure to handle his responsibilities on time that caused this outlay. They also claim approximately 50,000 shekels for expenses that the delay in installation caused them in finishing up the building project and for their need to extend their previous rental contract. Def demands full payment for the windows that he already installed and compensation for the damage that the lack of payment impacted him in regard to cash flow.  

 

Ruling: We saw that def was responsible for the delay and determined that def should pay (and how much) for temporary windows. Now we look at other damage claims.

Pl’s contractor received payment from pl because he was not able to finish the job and go on to other jobs due to the windows. The Nimukei Yosef says that if an employer was allowed to replace the worker who refused to work and did not, he is not due damage payment. The Hagahot Ashri says that in such a case, the worker is responsible for damages from that which was not completed as garmi (semi-direct damage) if the losses are monetarily quantifiable. The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 333:6) brings both opinions, but it is not clear whether he views them as contradictory or referring to different cases. Our case depends on this machloket, as pl could have ordered temporary windows sooner and not been penalized by the contractor. Only for part of the time could pl claim that def tricked them into believing that he was providing them. Even the opinion that obligates could arguably not apply here because there was no physical damage to an object but an external penalty. However, since even if the damage was not on the level of garmi, it was at least gerama, which includes a moral obligation to pay, we obligate 1500 shekel toward the payment.

Along similar lines, there will be only partial payment (1,670 shekels) for the guards that had to accompany the [Arab] workers for additional days until the job was finished. Similarly, there will be partial payment for having to extend their rental (3300 shekels). Regarding missing work to take care of things, this is considered losing an opportunity to gain and not grounds for payment. Regarding mental anguish, this is reserved for extreme cases, and not for cases of negligence.

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