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Beit Midrash Series P'ninat Mishpat

Chapter 64

Order for Services

Order for Services That Were Necessary Only Partially; based on Halacha Psuka, vol. 49- A Condensation of a Psak by the Beit Din Gazit of S’derot.
Various Rabbis27 kislev 5769
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Case: The defendant (=def), the director of a summer camp, requested of the plaintiff (=pl) to hold a workshop of flying model planes for his campers. The contract between them read, in part, as follows: "Number of children- approximately 200; payment for each child- 13 shekel; total to be paid- _______." In practice, only 160 children attended the camp and 104 children took part in the workshop. Def paid for 134 children. Pl demands payment for 200 children as spelled out in the contract and does not feel he is responsible for the smaller number of children who took part, especially considering that def did not call him to reduce the number. Even if this request is not accepted, he demands payment for the supplies that he brought for at least 200 children. Def responded that pl should have called to see exactly how many children were participating if it made a difference to him, as all of the other service suppliers did.
P'ninat Mishpat (576)
Various Rabbis
63 - Seller’s Responsibility after the Sale
64 - Order for Services
65 - Payment for Indirect Damage
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Ruling: There are two possible ways to interpret the contract; the first is as follows. Def obligated himself to pay for close to 200 campers at a price of 13 shekel per child. According to this, at the moment that pl arrived to run the workshop, def became obligated to pay 2600 shekel (based on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 333:1). It would be def’s responsibility to change the order before the work began, and, as it stands, def would have to pay for another 66 children.
The second interpretation is as follows. Def obligated himself to pay 13 shekel per child. Although the approximate number of children was set at 200, the more telling matter is that the sum total was left open. According to this interpretation, pl actually deserved to be refunded for the 30 children he paid for who did not take part in the workshop.
Beit din accepted the second interpretation, because the sum total is the most telling part of such a contract and a minimum payment should have been written down if there was some type of obligation of this sort. Therefore, pl has to return 390 shekel.
Beit din agrees in principle with pl that since he had to prepare for at least 200 children, def should pay for him for the supplies that are involved. This is based on the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 333:8): "If one says to a craftsman: ‘Make something for me and I will buy it from you, and the craftsman made it and the other one does want to buy it and it is something that if he does not buy it right away, it will get ruined, he must pay." However, in our case, the supplies are not things that will get destroyed if def does not take them. Therefore, def does not have to compensate for those supplies. Rather, if pl does not want to store the supplies until he needs them, he can sell them if he likes.
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