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Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5782

P'ninat Mishpat: Reservation of an I-pad Game part I

(based on ruling 81025 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The defendant (=def), a school within the broader Charedi community, reserved from the plaintiff (=pl) a navigation game for 100 girls to play in a forest, which includes madrichot, an app that needs to be installed on iPads, and riddles. The price was 3,500 NIS for the game and 1,200 NIS for renting the iPads. The arrangements were discussed by phone and WhatsApp between def’s secretary and social coordinator and pl’s secretary, who sent a contract to def. The contract states that if there is a cancelation within 36 hours of the event, the client has to pay 3,500 NIS and has to pay 10% of the order per month of late payment. Def’s principal asked about the appropriateness of the riddles for the girls and was assured that pl is religious, the riddles are appropriate, and the iPads will have only the game. Def’s secretary signed the agreement the day before the planned activity and def were told to go quickly to pick up the iPads by 6:00 PM. It turned out that the iPads had other apps, but pl told def they could be blocked. The principal thought it was okay, but checked with the supervisor, who rejected that idea, and def canceled the order before 6:00. Def refused to pay, and so pl is suing for 3,500 NIS for the cancellation and 7,700 NIS for paying 22 months late. Def counters that a school is obligated by a contract only if they attached a seal in addition to a signature, and the former was missing. Also, def claimed that they were given until 6 PM to confirm or cancel and that the iPads were not the type they could use. 

 

Ruling: It is true that according to the law, a school does not become obligated without a seal and a signature, and not by the signature of a secretary. However, it is common practice for schools to “do business” in such a manner, and this is among the many cases in which we say that minhag is binding (see Bava Metzia 83a and 74a; Shut Harashba II:268). 

After reading the exchanges between the participants, it is clear that there was no explicit condition that def could back out until 6 PM. This might have been def’s misunderstanding based on the fact that they could not do the activity without the iPads.

Was there a mekach taut because the iPads were not acceptable to def? Intrinsically there was nothing unusable about the iPads, except that the supervisor did not approve it. We see that def’s workers use such electronic devices, and they knew that they were renting iPads, which usually contain various apps, for just a few hours to use for a specific purpose. In such a case, when the buyer has a reason to not be happy with the purchase, if their concern is not obvious, they must stipulate a conditional sale (see Tosafot, Kiddushin 49b). In this case, even the principal was not expecting there to be a problem. Therefore, there is no mekach taut, and def has to pay.

Next time we will discuss how much def should be required to pay.

 

While one can argue that def would not have agreed to pay 3,500 NIS without getting the benefit of the activity, since the amount is not exaggerated (consider the time put in, the reservation of the madrichot, etc.), def cannot claim asmachta

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