Posted on October 11, 2005 by Rabbi Dr. Azriel Rosenfeld | Series: | Level:




K. Damages – Nezikin

“In the eleventh book I will include commandments regarding the relationship between a man and his fellow-man in which damage to person or property is initially involved. And I have called this book the Book of Damages.”

64. Damage by Property – Nizkei Mammon

If an animal does damage its owner must pay, as it says “And if a man’s ox strikes his friend’s ox…”1; but if it does damage through an act that is unusual for it he pays only half, and only up to the value of the animal that did the damage, unless it has become accustomed to such acts. However, there is no responsibility if the damage is done on the owner’s property, as it says “And he sends his animal and it eats in another’s field”2; and there is responsibility only for unusual acts if the damage is done in a place where the animal has a right to go or if the animal was adequately restrained but escaped. If the animal does not have a private owner at the time the damage is done or at the time of the trial, there is no responsibility.a

If an animal intentionally kills a man it must be stoned, as it says “And if an ox gores a man or woman and they die the ox shall be stoned…”3; and if it has killed repeatedly and has an owner he must pay the heirs compensation (unless it kills on his property), as it says “[And if it is a goring ox…] he shall give redemption for his life according to what he is assessed”.3,b

If someone places an obstacle in a public domain and an animal is damaged or killed by it he is responsible, as it says “And if a man opens a pit… and an ox or ass falls there the owner of the pit shall pay…”4; but he is responsible only for a degree of damage that could normally occur from such an obstacle. He is also responsible for damage to a person but not for the death of a person, and he is not responsible for damage to utensils.c

If someone lights a fire and does not take adequate precautions to keep it on his property, and it spreads and does damage to things that could normally be present where it spread, he is responsible, as it says “If a fire goes… and grain [in] the field is consumed the lighter of the fire shall pay”.5 If it does damage to a person he is responsible as though he had done the damage by hand. The same laws apply to other sources of damage that are propelled by the wind, provided it is not an unusual wind.d


Sources:

1. Ex. 21:35-36 a. 1:1-2,4,7-8; 7:1; 8:4
2. Ex. 22:4 b. 10:1-2,9,11; 11:1-2
3. Ex. 21:28-32 c. 12:1,10,15; 13:1-2
4. Ex. 21:33-34 d. 14:1-2,8ff,15-16
5. Ex. 22:5