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Based on ruling 81060 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts

Did He Leave the Elevator Work “Between Floors”?


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

Sivan 5783
Case: The plaintiff (=pl) represents the residents of a building, who hired the defendant (=def) as a contractor to build a shaft and install an elevator for 390,000 NIS, including payment (166,000 NIS) for the elevator. After quickly finishing most of the work on the shaft and receiving most of the money, there was a half-year stoppage due to other renovations in the building, including an additional floor; def was to receive extra money to extend the elevator to it. After a meeting with the residents, def decided unilaterally to stop working on the project. Pl is suing for a partial refund of the money paid, as the money paid to def plus to others to finish the job and buy a (different) elevator far exceeded 390,000 NIS. Def responds that he finished the work on the shaft, as evidenced by the fact that pl paid him in full for his work, and all that remained were things he was not required (and would have gotten paid extra) to do. He also said that pl should not have bought a different elevator from the one agreed upon, as this made adjustments necessary. Def denies leaving pl in the lurch, as he still advised pl. Def explained that he left because the residents’ hostile attitude made him fear they would discontinue payment.

Ruling: Beit din’s expert reported that the list of jobs the elevator company provided that needed to be done before the elevator could be installed included things that were within def’s obligation to provide. Thus, def had not finished his originally obligated work. Def did not even inform pl that he thought the shaft was ready for the planned elevator and did not order it from the company, which he could have done easily, even if he wanted to be phased out.
Because it is considered that def backed out of the job without justification, he has to return the amount that pl paid that goes beyond the promised price for the whole job (390,000 NIS). (Beit din then went into detail about how much should be subtracted for each element that pl had someone else complete. We will see just a smattering.) The electric boxes needed to be moved but not to the extent that pl did it, and therefore there is only partial reimbursement for this.
Regarding the change in elevators, the price quote that def got for the first elevator is 33% cheaper than its market value (per expert). Since def backed out of the agreement, he is obligated to pay according to what it would have cost pl to finish off the purchase (at full price). In that way, pl saved money for def by buying a cheaper elevator than envisioned (by 80,000 NIS), even if it is more expensive than the price def could have gotten it for. Therefore, even though buying the new elevator required extra work to prepare to install it, that still came out to be less than the 80,000 NIS saved.
After many calculations and technical analyses, beit din obligated def to return 72,450 NIS.

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