Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fender Bender

By: Reb Avi Lebovitz Hearos on the Daf/

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Reuven is driving behind Shimon and smashes into Shimon’s car, destroying his fender and causing $500.00 worth of damage. Shimon continues to drive home and gets into a terrible accident that completely totals his car. Reuven claims that he should not be liable for paying for the damage that he caused, because even if had he not caused the damage, it would have happened due to the later accident. Is Reuven obligated to pay?

The Reshash learns from Tosfos that Reuven is responsible. Tosfos says that although in the case of the Gemora where one throws a vessel from the roof and the other one smashes it before it hits the ground, the thrower is liable to pay and the smasher is exempt; in a case where one throws a stone at a utensil and before it hits the ground, someone else smashes it, the smasher is liable and therefore the thrower is exempt. The argument that “he broke an already broken item,” only applies to a case where the damaged item itself was thrown, not when another item was thrown at it. The logic is clear. When one throws a stone at a utensil, he has no connection to the utensil until the stone makes contact with it, so if prior to that, someone else smashes the utensil, the smasher is fully responsible.

Based on this, the Reshash says that if Reuven smashes Shimon’s vessel, but later a fire occurs and burns the broken vessel, Reuven is responsible to pay for the damage he caused. Why? Because even if Reuven would smash the vessel after the stone has been thrown, he would be obligated to pay; certainly if he broke the utensil prior to the fire heading to Shimon’s home, Reuven is liable to pay. Similarly, in the case of the car accident, Reuven would be obligated to pay, because even if at the time of the fender bender there was already a train headed right at Shimon’s car and it would definitely be destroyed, Reuven is liable for the damage he caused.