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Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5779

Pninat Mishpat: Firing a Contractor part V

(based on ruling 75104.3 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 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 more damages.] Def claims that the waterproofing on the roof was done improperly. Pl1 and Pl2 refute that claim. Def claims that there are major flaws in the electrical system, including that pl2 did not sufficiently expand the amperage capacity and that the electrical box is out of room for adding lines. Pl2 claims that the latter is because def added too many electrical sockets. There is also a need to figure out how much pl1 should receive for his supervisory work.


Ruling: Beit din hired an expert on waterproofing, who concluded that the work was clearly deficient and that it had to be totally undone because the roof was not sloped properly [to ensure water runoff]. The work became more expensive because def installed solar water heaters, which pl2 said they were not initially designed to do. However, it is clear from the list of features in the building that they did know. Since pl1 and pl2 told def that the roof was fine, the extra cost due to the need to undo the solar water system is their responsibility. Because the expert’s findings were so clearly against what pl1 and pl2 claimed, we hold them responsible for the need to hire the expert, and they must pay that whole expense. 

An expert beit din hired to check the electric system found that there was a need for over 12,000 shekels of repair. He also determined that a house expanded to such a size, including a new housing unit, should have 120 amperes. The expense to pay the Electric Company to raise the capacity is not to be paid since def would have incurred it anyway if pl2 would have carried it out. Since the contract says that the electric box should be a third bigger than the initial needs, the defendants are responsible for it being full already. The expert did not see an unreasonable number of sockets. Because def made a larger claim than was approved by the expert, we conclude that both sides were responsible for the need for an expert, and they will share his expense.

Pl1 deserves to be paid for the benefit he provided, which can be estimated by a percentage of the value of the work done minus the value of the damages and deficiencies for which pl1 and pl2 have to pay. Plus, since the job of a supervisor is to reduce headaches for the homeowner, something that pl1 did not do properly, his salary should be reduced somewhat more than the apparent percentage. (We will not get into the detailed calculations.)

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