(From the book Derech Chevron, part 1, siman 72)
What a simcha! Shmuel, the Levi’s youngest son, was finally getting married! Friends and family of the young couple vied for the opportunity to host sheva brachot events in celebration of the marriage.
Shmuel’s sister, Dina, and brother-in-law, Yehuda, hosted the Tuesday night meal. Dina did the bulk of the cooking, but, naturally, numerous sisters and sisters-in-law helped out, each bringing a dish or two, to add to the festivities. For his part, Yehuda made sure to have a lot of soda and juice on hand, for the benefit of the thirsty guests.
Tuesday night arrived, and family and friends eagerly crowded into Yehuda and Dina’s living room, and seated themselves in front of the elegantly arranged disposable dishes. The mood was light and festive.
As David, one of the guests, took a can of coke for himself, he noticed that the can advertised the opportunity to win a car. Following the instructions on the can, David peeled off a sticker which had been stuck on the side. To his amazement, the back of the sticker read "CONGRATULATIONS! We at Coca Cola Co. are happy to tell you, that you’ve won a brand new Chevrolet! In order to claim your prize, bring this coupon and a means of identification to one of our offices."
"I won! I won!" David shouted.
The guests all looked up to see what the commotion was about. "I won a car! I took a can of coke, and I peeled off the sticker, and it says that I won a car!" David exclaimed.
"Wait a second!" Noam, one of the chatan’s brothers, shouted. "Doesn’t the car belong to Yehuda? After all, he’s the one who bought the soda!"
Who is correct? Does the car belong to David, the guest, or Yehuda, the host?
Rabbi Dov Lior, shlita:
The Rama rules (Choshen Mishpat siman 132) that if a person buys a metal implement from a middleman, and then finds that the implement contains silver, the middleman is not entitled to keep the silver. This is because a person does not acquire something, even if it is in his hand or his domain, if the person does not have awareness of the presence of the object, and it is not likely that the object will be found. (This ruling is based on Tosafot on Bava Metzia 26a.)
According to this, it would seem that Yehuda is not entitled to the car, because, when the can of coke was in his possession, he had no knowledge that it had the winning coupon. However, upon closer examination, it is clear the cases are not exactly parallel. In our case, the soda company advertised that purchasers had the chance to win a car. Presumably, when Yehuda bought the soda, he had the knowledge that there was a chance that he might be purchasing the winning can, despite the fact that the chance of winning is extremely remote. Based on this line of reasoning, the winning coupon does belong to Yehuda.
Another reason to suggest that David, and not Yehuda, owns the car, is that Yehuda, as the host, gave over ownership of the food to his guests (See Rama on Even Ha’ezer, siman 28, se’if 17) (In truth, this ruling of the Rama is not straightforward. (See se’if 16) According to the Aruch Hashulchan, this ruling is limited to situations in which the guest performs an act which causes him to formally acquire the food.)
This would seem to make David the owner of the winning coupon. However, this is not the case, because Yehuda gave ownership of the food to the guests. There is no reason to extend this ruling to things which accompany the food. He gave the soda to the guests, but never gave them ownership of the labels attached to the cans.
In summary: The car belongs to Yehuda, the host.