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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 66 "Land Rover Insurance Claim" Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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2/11/11

Welcome to Fellow Weekly's:

What's the Law?™

Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table. What's the Law?™ raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals.

To join this mailing list, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

CASE 166: Land Rover Insurance Claim: A Smashing Success

"The Land Rover LR3 combines go-anywhere off-road capability with responsive on-road performance in a vehicle that is comfortable, safe and secure.

The LR3 incorporates the latest in electronics in a system called Terrain Response, which selects the best combination of traction, power, gearing, and braking to suit any type of terrain and surface." (Automotive.com)

Bobby Castel inched slowly towards the red light at the Reisterstown Rd. and Falstaff Rd. intersection when suddenly a red audi clattered his Rover's right doors and fenders.

Bobby's brother, a successful mechanic and body part dealer repaired his rover for $200 while Bobby forwarded the remaining $3800 balance from his insurance claim to cover young Sammy Castel's private school tuition dues.

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at weekly@projectfellow.org.

Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

CASE 165 The Baffled Babysitter Part IV: A Sukkot Festival

The Yellow Mediterranean Wednesday morning sun cast its warming embrace across the historic city of Jerusalem, as the jovial populace frolicked festively back and forth carrying out their pre-holiday errands.

Busying themselves with untold preparations, the Bermans enlisted Sara their favorite babysitter to care for Hanna and the twin boys, and tie up some loose ends. Mrs. Berman handed Sara a plastic container of dried sweetened fruit should she deem it fit to treat the children.

The foursome made their ways joyfully down the white stairs to examine their lovely wooden holiday structure and to add their own unique decorative flavors to their makeshift seven-day abode. The background music in the air only added to the emotionally charged atmosphere swelling with smiles and good will.

Four Succahs decorated the Jerusalem cobblestone courtyard in front of the Berman residence; belonging to the Fried, the Gold, the Hartman, and the Berman families respectively.

In general, the neighbors were on favorable terms with one another, though affairs with Mrs. Berman and Mrs. Hartman had recently been somewhat strained and compromised.

Quite handy herself, Sara and the children began to hang some beautiful photos along the lightly colored wooden Succah wall when they suddenly ran out of hooks. Hanna ran outside found a jar of metal hooks alongside the Gold Succah. Without thinking too much, Hanna took some hooks from the jar to "borrow" for the holiday. She handed them to Sara and told her to remember to tell daddy to return them to the Golds after the holiday.

Meanwhile, fifteen-year-old Danny Gold came down to lay some more support beams across the top of his Succah. His electricity yet to be connected, he figured the Frieds would not mind if he used their outlet and extension cord for a half hour to complete the job. Nor for that matter would they mind if he charged his cell phone in their outlet. After all, Gold was involved in a virtuous undertaking.

In the Hartman Succah, Mr. Hartman and his four children were installing their light fixtures, when their electric drill ran out of power. Hartman went next store to the Berman's and asked Sara if he could borrow their drill for two hours, to which Sara graciously consent.

Shortly thereafter, the twins come barging into the Berman Succah laughing hysterically. Sara and Hanna turn around and their faces dropped. The twins' faces were adorned in chocolate. Some rudimentary investigation led to the discovery of an empty jar of dried fruit and a depletion of Hartman's chocolate bar stash. The Berman twins had usurped the jar of dried fruit, and convinced the Hartman kids to barter their Torino bars for a stash of sugared pineapple.

After Mr. Hartman finished installing his light fixtures, he sat down on the courtyard bench to reply to some last minute emails before the holiday borrowing or rather making use of the Gold's WiFi.

I. Hanna Berman borrowed Gold's hooks without permission for use during the holiday.

II. Danny Gold used the Fried's extension cord.

III. And electricity to power his drill and recharge his cellphone without permission.

IV. Sara the babysitter lent Mr. Hartman the Berman drill without receiving permission from the Berman's to do so.

V. Mrs. Berman entrusted Sara with the sugared pineapples to keep the twins in line. The twins however, got hold of the fruit and used it for mischief.

VI. Mr. Hartman made use of Gold's Wifi without permission.

What's the Law?

The Answer

Hanna Berman should ask the Golds for permission. If the Gold's are unavailable she may only use the hooks if she is certain that they do not need it over the holiday. If the Fried's are unavailable, Danny Gold may use the extension cord but may not make use of the Fried's electricity without receiving permission to do so. Sara may not lend the drill to Mr. Hartman without receiving permission to do so from the Berman's. Although, Mrs. Berman would most probably look the other way, according to the letter of the law, Sara is required to pay Mrs. Berman for the value of the sugared pineapples. Mr. Hartman may use Gold's WiFi.

Detailed Explanation

The Baffled Babysitter Part IV implicates the following five laws:

1. One who borrows an article without receiving permission from the owner is a thief. As a thief, he or she is required to return the object to the owner and is liable for damages in the interim [Choshen Mishpat 359:5].

2. Generally, observant Jews sanction "mitzvos" to be performed by way of their possessions provided they incur no or minimal loss. Thus, if one is unable to contact the possessor, one may generally assume the right to use another fellow's possesions for mitzvah performance .

Nevertheless, when it is apparent that the possessor would object to usage of the article without receiving permission, doing so would be deemed thievery. For example, such sanction ought not be assumed if the consequences would generate a significant loss or inconvenience on the owner's part.

Consequently, if the owner cannot be contacted, one may theoretically use another fellow's prayer-shawl without receiving permission.

Yet, it is forbidden to do so during communal prayer services (when the owner would need the shawl for his personal use), during the summer when people sweat, or if the owner stores the shawl in his private cubby whereby indicating [Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 14: 4, Aruch Hashulchan Orach Chaim 14: 11, 12].

3. A paid trustee or a bailee for hire is liable for theft of the entrusted article [Exodus 22:9-11].

4. One who borrows, rents, or is entrusted with a movable object or chattel, may not lend or rent it to another individual. Nevertheless, the primary trustee may allow for the people whom the owner or bailor generally permits to use the object, to become "secondary users", provided that the level of trust is uncompromised.

For example, as a borrower assumes greater liability for the article than a gratuitous bailee, [Exodus 22:13] a borrower may not deposit it by a gratuitous bailee irrespective of the relationship between the owner and the secondary user [Rambam Hilchos Sechirus 1:4, 5:5 See Maggid Mishnah].

5. One who loses an article to a lion, bear, and gales of a sea, rush of the river or similar circumstance of almost sure defeat despairs from ever retrieving it. Protesting the contrary is like crying over a collapsed home. As such, consciously or subconsciously the initial owner allows another party to pick up the article [Choshen Mishpat 259: 7].

Application:

I. The usage of hooks during the Sukkot holiday may be comparable to using another fellow's prayer shawl during communal prayer services. Even if the Golds and Bermans are generally accustomed to lending each other small items, Hanna Berman may only use Gold's hooks if she is certain that the Golds do not need them for their own Succah.

II. The usage of an extension cord in this setting for a half hour does not generate a risk of damage nor any noticable loss. Danny Gold could therefore assume that the Frieds would permit him to use their extension cord which was lying on the ground in order to complete the construction of his Succah..

III. However, the usage of electricity for a half hour to power a drill and to recharge a cell phone generates a financial loss of halachic significance (more than the value of a perutah). Thus, Danny may not simply assume the right to use Fried's electricity without having received permission to do so. A pattern of giving and taking of sorts would be considered receiving permission.

IV. The Berman's entrusted Sara with the drill. As a trustee, Sara generally has no right to allow anyone else to use it.

Although a trustee may permit one whom the bailor generally allows to use their article, to become a secondary trustee; and as such babysitters may generally lend objects in their trust to neighbors , there are two grounds to forbid Sara to permit Mr. Hartman to use the drill without explicit permission from the Bermans.

1) Electrical appliances are delicate. It is common for people to be particular about passing them from hand to hand. 2)Mrs. Hartman and Mrs. Berman's relationship was strained. It is possible that even if the Bermans would allow the Gold's or the Fried's to use their drill they would not want the Hartmans to do so.

V. Mrs. Berman entrusted the sugared pineapples with Sara, a paid trustee for a specific purpose. She failed to safegaurd them for their appropriate use. Instead, the pineapples were "stolen". While practically, we can assume that Mrs. Berman would not hold her to task and will understand that such occurences happen, according to the letter of the law, Sara would be responsible to pay Mrs. Berman for the "stolen" sugared pineapples.

VI. Gold could have blocked acces to his WiFi. Gold knows that by not blocking his WiFi anyone can exploit the available service. He figuratively left it to the "gales of the sea". As he relinquishes control over who makes use of his WiFi, Hartman may use it without worry; even if by doing so, Gold's service is slowed down.

[Answered by the Fellow -Yesharim Research Center]

Note:

Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.

To join this mailing list, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

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