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Mr. Weil was rushing to shul. He found an empty spot in the shul’s parking lot and quickly pulled in. However, the spot was a drop tight and he bumped into the adjacent car, scratching the paint and denting the door slightly. He scribbled a note with his name and number and went inside.

After davening, Mr. Weil returned to the parking lot and saw the owner of the damaged car, Mr. Braun, standing there. “Sorry about the damage,” Mr. Weil said. “I was rushing to daven and misjudged the parking.”

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“The damage doesn’t seem severe,” Mr. Braun said, “but it has to be repaired.”

“I probably won’t invoke my insurance,” said Mr. Weil. “Most of the cost will be my deductible, anyway. Check what it costs to repair and I’ll pay you directly.”

Two days later, the two met again. “I checked with two dealer-authorized body shops,” Mr. Braun said. “One wants $500 for the job and the other $600.”

“That’s strange,” replied Mr. Weil. “I showed a photo of the damage to my body shop. He said that he would repair it for about $400.”

“I’d like the repair done at a dealer-authorized shop, though,” said Mr. Braun. “I don’t know the quality of work of your body shop.”

“The body shop I use is reputable and does good work,” said Mr. Weil. “Many people in the shul use him.”

“Still, the car is still new and under warranty,” said Mr. Braun. “I want to make sure that it’s kept in best condition. Slight changes in the color might also affect the price if I decide to sell the car later. It’s also a hassle to go to someone new; I prefer my regular shop.”

“That’s your prerogative, but I don’t have to pay more for that,” said Mr. Weil. “I’ll pay you the $400 that it costs at my body shop and you can repair it wherever you want.”

“My desire to use a dealer-authorized shop is fair,” said Mr. Braun. “You’re liable for the damage at his cost, $500!”

The two decided to approach Rabbi Dayan. “Mr. Weil damaged my car,” said Mr. Braun. “I’d like to have it repaired at a dealer-authorized body shop, but he has a cheaper estimate. Is he liable for the full cost?”

“A person who damages is liable for the loss in the item’s value,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “However, if the item is meant to be repaired, not replaced, he is liable for its repair. The Shach indicates that he is responsible for the actual repair, while the Chazon Ish writes that he owes the cost of the repair at the time of the damage. (C.M. 387:1; Shach 95:18, 387:1; Chazon Ish B.K. 10:3)

“If the same repair can be done at different prices, Mr. Weil is not liable to pay more than it costs at the cheaper place,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “This is like any other case of hamotzi meichaveiro; you can demand only the lower amount.”

“What if the cheaper place is less convenient?” asked Mr. Braun.

“That is usually not a sufficiently valid reason to pass a greater charge to Mr. Weil,” said Rabbi Dayan. “If you had to pay and were tight on money, you would seek a cheaper place, even if less convenient.”

“However,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “if the other shop is less qualified and will not repair as well or if there is some other valid reason why the average person would choose to repair at the more expensive place, such as if using an unauthorized dealer would void the warranty or lower the value of the car, it is for the discretion of the dayan.” (See Pischei Choshen, Nezikin 10:7[18]; Tzohar #11, 5763 p. 293; Tel Talpios #66, 5767, p. 233.)

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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to subscribe@businesshalacha.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail ask@businesshalacha.com.