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Business Weekly: A Drop in Value

The following is from Business Weekly

A project of the Business Halacha Institute

Under the auspices of HaRav Chaim Kohn

As I was backing out of the shul parking lot yesterday, I carelessly bumped into a parked car, denting it. I didn’t recognize the car so I left a note with my contact information. When the fellow contacted me, he told me that that since the car is old and worn out, he doesn’t plan on repairing the scratch. Nevertheless, he went to a couple of repair shops for repair estimates which ranged from $500 to $750. He told me that he will go easy on me and will only ask me to pay the lowest estimate.

Q: I admit that I owe him money, but it seems unfair that I should have to pay him for repairs he does not intend to make. What is my liability?

A: The general way by which damages are assessed is by calculating the loss of value to the damaged object (Choshen Mishpat 387:1). If the car was worth $1,000, and after it was damaged the owner could sell it for $200, the one who caused the damage is liable to pay $800, or the depreciation that he caused. Seemingly, in your case we should make a similar calculation and we would assess the value of the depreciation that occurred. Shach (Choshen Mishpat 95:18, 387:1) rules that paying for an object’s depreciation applies only when the damaged item cannot be repaired. If it is repairable, one is obligated to pay the repair costs. For example, if someone punches a hole in drywall, he is obligated to pay repair costs rather than the depreciation of the house – which would be significantly less. Based on this, it would seem that you should pay the damaged party the value of the repair.  Chazon Ish (Bava Kama 6:3), however, clarifies that the obligation to pay repair costs does not grant the damaged party the right to demand reimbursement for the cost of the repair. It is a right to have the object repaired. If the damager cannot repair it himself, he may pay someone else to repair it. If it will not be repaired, the damaged party may only collect the depreciation and no more. Consequently, if the owner of the damaged car will not repair the scratch, he may demand the depreciation but not the repair costs.

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Please be advised: These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision.

(YWN Desk – NYC)

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