Mr. Wolf’s son was getting married. The photographer, Mr. Schott, was taking pictures of the family before the wedding.
“Where is the videographer?” asked Mr. Wolf.
“He’s on his way,” assured him Mr. Schott. “He should be here soon.”
“I hope so,” replied Mr. Wolf. “People are beginning to arrive, and we have the chasan‘s tisch shortly.”
An hour later, the videographer still hadn’t arrived. “What’s going on?” Mr. Wolf asked.
“The videographer called and said he was in an accident,” replied the Mr. Schott. “Thank G‑d nothing serious, but it delayed him two hours. He’ll be here in 10 minutes.”
“Now he tells me?!” exploded Mr. Wolf. “Why didn’t he notify me two hours ago? I would have made some alternate arrangements. We lost everything until now from the video!”
“Almost everything is recorded in my photos,” Mr. Schott soothed him. “He was probably very caught up with the accident. We’ll deal with the payment after the wedding and deduct something.”
Finally, the videographer arrived, just in time to catch the chuppah. “I’m glad to see you,” said Mr. Wolf, relieved. “I was afraid we might not have a proper video of the chuppah!”
“There was nothing I could do,” apologized the videographer. “Someone hit me from behind. He made a serious dent in the back and blew one of the tires. Till we settled everything, it took almost two hours.”
At the end of the wedding, Mr. Wolf sat down with Mr. Schott to arrange payment. “We have to reduce the cost of the videographer,” said Mr. Wolf.
“We will deduct the two hours that the videographer was not here,” said Mr. Schott.
“That’s all?!” Mr. Wolf exclaimed. “We lost memorable moments forever!”
“Rabbi Dayan is here and still talking to people,” said Mr. Schott. “We can discuss the issue with him.
The two approached Rabbi Dayan. Mr. Wolf explained the situation. “How much must I pay the videographer?” he asked.
“A worker who arrived late and did not complete the designated job can be compared to a worker who retracted,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The Mishnah [Bava Metzia 75b] teaches that although a po’el (time-bound worker) can back out without penalty in certain situations, he cannot if the work involves a davar ha’aved (where disruption or delay in the work causes a substantial loss). Amongst the examples mentioned is a musician for a wedding; his timely presence is crucial. The same is true of a videographer’s presence.”
“Since it’s a davar ha’aved, shouldn’t he have to pay me for the loss and aggravation?” asked Mr. Wolf. “At least, I should be able to deduct a significant amount from his pay.”
“Indeed, a worker who retracted in a case of davar ha’aved is liable for the damage up to the amount of his pay,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The Rema cites an opinion that he is liable even out-of-pocket, but qualifies that this is true only if there is an actual monetary loss, but not davar ha’aved like a wedding that does not entail monetary damage.” [Choshen Mishpat 333:6; Shach 333:39; Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 11:14(37)]
“Moreover, if the worker retracted because of circumstances beyond his control (oness), he is not penalized even if it’s davar ha’aved,” added Rabbi Dayan. “He remains entitled to proper pay for the work that he did.” [Choshen Mishpat 333:5]
“Shouldn’t the videographer have notified me, though?” complained Mr. Wolf.
“Indeed, he should have,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The employer can replace the worker if time is of essence for this job. Furthermore, the Chazon Ish writes that the worker carries greater liability if he retracted from a job and caused a loss without notifying the employer. However, in this case, there is no liability, as I already explained.” [R’ Akiva Eiger 333:5; Chazon Ish, B.K. 23:25]
“Thus,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “the videographer should have immediately given notice that he would be delayed so that Mr. Wolf could have made alternate arrangements, but he remains entitled to full pay for whatever hours he did.”