Rabbi Jachter's Halacha Files
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Parshat Toldot          29 MarCheshvan 5765              November 13, 2004              Vol.14 No.9

<<Part 1<<

The Case of the Flying CD Player - Part 2
by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Last week we began to discuss a fascinating question that arose from a bizarre incident where a borrowed CD player flew out of a car window and was destroyed. This week, we shall present how this issue was finally adjudicated by Rav Hershel Schachter.

Adam Hamazik
The students (see Sanhedrin 32a, where we see that the students are given a voice in Beit Din hearings), however, stated that our case is not analogous to the case that is discussed in Bava Kama 47, where the ox of the property owner caused the damage. In our case, the property owner himself (R) did the damage. Thus, it is appropriate to investigate whether we should view R as an Adam Hamazik (damager) to S's CD player.
The Mishnah (Bava Kama 26a) states that "Adam Muad Leolam," a human being is always responsible for the consequences of his actions. The Mishnah adds that this applies whether the person acted deliberately (Meizid) or negligently (Shogeg), and whether he is awake or asleep. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 72a) adds that a human being is responsible even if it is a situation of Ones (accident). Tosafot (Yevamot 53b s.v. Haba) add that some believe that one is responsible even if he was coerced to cause damage. Accordingly, R should be obligated to pay as an Adam Hamazik, who must compensate the victim even if he caused damage accidentally.
This point, however, seems to hinge on a dispute among the Rishonim regarding the scope of an Adam Hamazik's obligation. Tosafot (Bava Kama 27b s.v. Ushmuel) argue that an Adam HaMazik must pay only in an ordinary case of Ones. However, if the damage was completely beyond one's control (Ones Gamur), then even an Adam Hamazik is exempt from payment.
For example, say Tosafot, one is obligated to pay if, while sleeping, he damaged the person sleeping next to him. However, one is excused if the person sleeping next to him lay down after the damager fell asleep. As proof to their assertion, Tosafot cite the Mishna (Bava Kama 31b-32a) that excuses one who is holding a beam and damages the barrel of one walking in front of him. He is excused if the one holding the barrel stops suddenly without warning, while the beam-holder continues and damages the barrel.
Tosafot even set a standard for Ones Gamur. They write that if it is an Ones as severe as theft, one is excused from paying for the damage that he caused. Thus, an Adam Hamazik is responsible for his actions only to the same extent as a Shomer Sachar (paid watchman).
The Ramban (Bava Metzia 82b s.v. Ve'ata Rabi Yehuda) disagrees, ruling that an Adam Hamazik is responsible even in a case of Ones Gamur. He cites a proof from the fact that the Gemara (Bava Kama 27a) obligates one to pay if he was pushed off a roof by an unusually strong wind and damaged someone. The Ramban writes that an Adam Hamazik is responsible no matter how severe the Ones. The Maggid Mishneh (commenting to Hilchot Chovel Umazik 6:1) and the Shach (C.M. 378:1) argue that the Rambam (ad. loc.) agrees with the Ramban, as the Rambam does not seem to distinguish between Ones Gamur and Ones (see Kesef Mishnah ad. loc. who disagrees and argues that the Rambam agrees with Tosafot).
This debate seems to continue with the Shulchan Aruch. The Rama (C.M. 378:1) rules explicitly in accordance with Tosafot. On the other hand, the Shach (ad. loc.) argues that the Mechaber agrees with the Ramban as the Mechaber does not explicitly distinguish between an Ones Gamur and an ordinary Ones. The Taz (C.M. 378:2) asserts that the Shulchan Aruch adopts a compromise position, excusing an Adam Hamazik only in an extraordinary situation of Ones. The Taz's example of an extraordinary Ones is someone who ascends a roof that is encompassed by a fence and is thrust by an unusually strong wind over the fence and he falls and causes damage. The Aruch Hashulchan (C.M. 378:8) rules in accordance with the Taz. He notes (C.M. 378:1 and 378:9) that most Rishonim agree with Tosafot, and that even Tosafot would agree that if one intends to damage, he is responsible to pay even in a case of Ones Gamur.
Accordingly, in our case, we must determine whether R is defined as an extreme Ones Gamur comparable to the case of the Taz and the Aruch Hashulchan. There was some debate among the Talmidim, and we decided that the case should be referred to a Rav of eminent stature for a decision. I called Rav Hershel Schachter, who ruled that it was not a case of Ones Gamur, and R was thus obligated to compensate S for the damaged CD player.

It is often quite difficult to determine a proper ruling regarding a monetary dispute (see Shulchan Aruch C.M. 12:20 and the comments of the Vilna Gaon ad. loc.). However, when the Rav and the disputants are dedicated to finding a truthful ruling, a fair judgment can be reached with the help of Hashem.


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