From The HOTLINE
A Project of the Business Halacha Institute
Under the auspices of Rav Chaim Kohn
My two sons were “play-fighting” one afternoon. Their friend came over to visit. He saw that they were having fun, and he decided to join in. During the wrestle, my son broke his friend’s glasses. The friend now wants to be reimbursed for the damage done to his glasses even though he voluntarily took part in the rough play.
Q: Is my son obligated to pay for the broken glasses? Does the fact that his friend joined the wrestle of his own free will make a difference?
A: Rosh (Teshuvas HaRosh 101:6) discusses an incident in which two people were play-fighting and one of them accidentally blinded the eye of the other. At first glance, it seems that the assailant should pay the victim for blinding his eye, since the Mishnah states (Bava Kama 26a) that a person is always considered pre-warned for the damage that he inflicts. This holds true whether the damage was done accidentally or intentionally. Nevertheless, Rosh rules that he is not responsible to pay. He partially bases his ruling on the Gemara Bava Kama (32a) that rules that when two people crash into one another while running in the street, causing damage, they are exempt from liability. The rationale is that one who runs in a public domain knows that there is a risk involved and knowingly accepts that risk. Similarly, when people decide to play-fight, they do so knowing that there is a risk of injury or damage to their property. This includes clothing, glasses, and any other property. When your sons began to wrestle, they were aware of the risk involved, and therefore neither is liable for the damage that they inadvertently caused during the fight. Their friend was also aware of this risk. Because of this halacha, your son is exempt from paying for the glasses.
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