Fellow Weekly - Issue 40
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Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals.
CASE 141: Joy Friedman!
Dr. and Dr. Simcha and Joy Friedman were set on bringing the Purim spirit to the entire Sutton Place neighborhood this year.
They ordered dozens of mishloach manot packages from Manot Munchies for all of their neighbors and friends, to be delivered on Purim morning. Simcha and Joy wanted every Sutton Place resident to feel truly special and appreciated. With thoughtfulness, intuition, and humor, they ordered the packages to fit the needs, likes, and idiosyncrasies of each neighbor.
Mrs. Cohen, an elderly woman on the block, had suffered a great deal through the vicissitudes of life, which left her quite irritable. To say the least, her unfortunate demeanor provided a challenge to jovial side-by-side existence, and relationships between the neighbors had always been strained.
Simcha and Joy wanted to use Purim as an opportunity to make amends and turn over a new leaf. And so, they extended a special effort to order an extra large package suited for Mrs. Cohen. Three glass bottles of flavored seltzer water, 2 packages of wholegrain crackers, an array of exotic teas, a jar of honey, a cinnamon babka, coffee beans, licorice, and a row of apples, oranges, and star-fruit - all elegantly presented in an ornate magazine rack and wrapped up neatly in cellophane. They hoped to warm her heart with the feeling that she was loved.
On the other side of town lived attorneys David and Linda Green, Esq. The Greens' and Friedmans' good-humored relationship went back years, and one never knew what to expect in each other's mishloach manot packages. Under pressure from his wife, David had begun cutting down on his sugar intake for quite some time. However, Linda made it clear that she thought it reasonable for him to cheat a little on Purim.
Simcha and Joy decided to capitalize on David's new diet and ordered a mishloach manot package from Manot Munchies to suit.
The Purim festivities began and the Friedmans were expecting to receive a phone call from Mrs. Cohen expressing her appreciation for the generous and thoughtful package.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Cohen received a package at the doorPleasantly surprised, she opened the wrapping and her mouth dropped wide open. What nerve! ... a crystal pill case! She opened the case and her eyes beheld - one black jellybean for Sunday a gourmet chocolate chip for Monday, dried apple slices for Tuesday, a candied almond for Wednesday, Splenda for Thursday, a caramel popcorn for Friday, and for Saturday a note which read, Sweet Dreams from your doctors'.
Incensed, Mrs. Cohen threw down the crystal case, smashing it into smithereens.
At twelve noon, the Greens called. We are touched with the graciousness of your mishloach manot but fail to get this year's humor.
Before Joy had time to explain, the phone rang on the other line. Joy glanced over to the second phone and saw Mrs. Cohen's number on the caller ID. Excitedly, she picked up the receiver and heard a deep and disturbed voice: Joy! I am not . . . .
No joys for the Cohens, no grin for the Friedmans- because the Cohens got the Green's and the Greens have the Cohen's! Someone made a grave mistake.
After Purim, the Friedmans phoned Manot Munchies and told them they intended to withhold payment due. They would happily pay for the bulk of the mishloach manot, but not for the two switched packages. Manot Munchies argued that the Friedmans should at least pay for the cost price of the goods.
- May the Friedmans withhold payment for the switched packages?
- Does Mrs. Cohen have any financial responsibility for breaking the pill case?
- May the Green family eat Mrs. Cohen's package?
What is the law?
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Read next week's issue for the answer!
LAST WEEK'S CASE
CASE 140: It is Snow My Business!
Record-breaking blizzards throughout the Northeast brought Baltimore, Maryland to its knees. Saturday night's snowfall blanketed Dorset Place, a quiet and friendly side street between Falstaff and Labyrinth Road, in thirty inches of snow.
David Levy, of 6901 Dorset Place, owns a four-wheel drive and serves as a first responder and medic for the local volunteer Ambulance corps. David needed access from his driveway to the main intersection. At midnight, David hooked up his plow to the front of his SUV and spent two-hours clearing a path from his driveway, down the entire side street, straight to the Dorset - Falstaff intersection. Being a good neighbor, he decided to plow his neighbor's driveways as well. He spent an extra two hours doing so.
The next morning David posed the following two questions; do my neighbors owe me for plowing their driveways? May I ask them to jointly pay me for plowing the street? On one hand, I worked hard and late hours to clear the street for them. On the other hand, the city's snowplows would have cleared our street by Monday morning. My neighbors might argue that they could have waited for the city to plow the street. Additionally, concerning their driveways, there might be something else to consider; the entire city was under a stage 3 snow emergency. Only emergency vehicles were allowed on the city streets! Even if their driveways are plowed, where would they be going?
By Tuesday night, the street was filled again with a fresh blanket of deep snow.
What is the law?
[Submitted by: Mr. David Hess, Baltimore MD]
It is Snow My Business implicates the following four laws.
David Levy provided an unsolicited service for his neighbors. At times, a beneficiary is required to pay for received benefit albeit unsolicited [Choshen Mishpat 375:1, Sha"ch 2]. (See Issues 14, 19, 29, The Case of the Baffled Babysitter- Special Edition)
• One is generally required to pay the low end [Maseches Bava Kama 46a] of the going rate for receiving an unsolicited service, that he or she would otherwise have willingly paid a third party to perform [Choshen Mishpat 375:1]. [See Sma ibid. for further discussion on the configuration of the chargeable rate for unsolicited services received which enhance the value of the beneficiary's property.]
Three important exceptions follow:
• If it is apparent that the beneficiary would have never have paid for receiving such a service, the beneficiary is not required to pay for receiving it unsolicited [Bava Metzia 101, Nimukei Yosef; Choshen Mishpat 375:4, Rama].
Note: At times, although the beneficiary would have preferred to perform the job personally instead of hiring a full-waged worker, he or she would still be willing to pay a third party, a minimal amount to avoid having to bother with it personally. In such a situation, the unsolicited benefactor may ask the beneficiary for that minimal amount of compensation.
• If the benefactor initially performed the service gratis, he or she may no longer ask the beneficiary to pay for the enjoyment received. There is no going back on a gift! [Rama Choshen Mishpat 246: 17; 264:4 Rama]
• Similarly, if the benefactor initially performed the service completely for his or her personal good, any secondary beneficiaries are absolved from paying for the incidental gain they received. Yet, if the benefactor intentionally performed the service for their benefit as well, he may ask the incidental beneficiaries to chip in. The benefactor may do so even without having incurred more expenses on their behalf [264:4 Rama].
In conclusion: a beneficiary, who would have paid full wages for receiving a specific service, is required to pay the lower end of the going rate to an unsolicited provider, as long as the provider did not initially intend to do so on gratis.
The Dorset neighbors received two distinct, unsolicited services from David. They enjoyed a plowed street and plowed driveways. Assuming people would pay for such services, they would be required to pay David as long as David did not initially intend to provide his service free of charge. In truth, during the blizzard two weeks ago, many Baltimoreans did not wait for the city to get around to plowing their streets. Instead, neighbors jointly hired private individuals to plow their streets.
It is reasonable to assume that David intended to clear Dorset Place for his own benefit only. He needed immediate access to the intersections and as such began to plow the street. It is equally reasonable to assume that David did not extend his additional investment of two hours of late night work to plow his neighbors' driveways free of charge.
Thus, while the neighbors would not be required to chip in and pay for the cost of clearing the street, they would be required to pay David the low end of the going rate, for the benefit they received from a receiving a cleared driveway. Yet, a neighbor, who would have preferred to plow his or her own, driveway rather than having to hire someone else, is not required to pay David for the unsolicited service received. Nevertheless, if this neighbor would pay a nominal amount not to have to go through the bother, he or she would be required to pay that nominal fee to David.
As Baltimoreans willingly solicited such services irrespective of the stage 3-snow emergency, evidently, such a service had a market value, and David can duly ask for remuneration. The subsequent snowfall does not decrease the value of the service received.
[Answered by the Fellow-Yesharim Research Center]
The Torah commands us to pay our employees on time:
An employee who finishes the job at night can expect payment by dawn [Leviticus 19:13].
An employee who finished the job during the day can expect payment before dusk [Deuteronomy 24:15].
This applies to rental fees as well [Choshen Mishpat 339:1].
Follow the next few weeks for an exciting series on "Timely Payments".
[Choshen Mishpat 339]
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