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My rav frequently discusses contemporary halachic questions. He quotes a general rule from the Gemarrah (I assume it's from Baba Kama or one of the "Baba's") that a person who causes damages is always responsible, even if accidental (Excuse me if I may not be paraphrasing this rule, correctly.)

With this context, the rav claims that if I email you a file that has a virus, you open it, and the file damages your computer, (e.g. - destroys the hard disk or O.S.), I am responsible. My argument is that the sender is probably NOT responsible because:

1 - All computers, these days, are expected to have virus and security protection, and it is the receivers responsibility to scan all potential email viruses.

2 - There is no way to verify that the sender DIDN'T scan the file before uploading it. If we assume that he did, and there was no virus, a virus could have still been picked up during web trasnfer. It's quite posible...

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You have the added component that this is arguably not considered damage at all, as there is no physical damage being done (similar to the discussion of intellectual property rights). –  YeZ May 18 at 19:43
    
How could a virus be "picked up during web transfer"? –  Daniel May 22 at 17:39
    
@Daniel, in theory. In practice (unless you are a government target - based on my professional experience) if you see hoof prints, think horses not zebras. –  Yishai May 22 at 19:07
    
"There is no way to verify that the sender DIDN'T scan the file before uploading it." Ask him. –  msh210 Jul 9 at 4:45
    
@msh210 - Even asking and getting an affirmative answer doesn't confirm that it really was scanned. I have Norton installed on my computer, and within the product it says that it automatically scans every attachment before sending email. I assume that it actually does. But when I restart my computer the following day, and Norton has a warning icon telling me that I have to "fix" something, I can wonder how long that icon was there before I noticed it. So, did Norton REALLY scan the attachment? –  DanF Jul 9 at 13:09

2 Answers 2

In terms of actual damages the general discussion of this concept is around Grama and Garmi. A person is always responsible for their direct actions (except in an Ones - when forced). However, if the damage is indirectly related, then they are not, as a matter of Beis Din (G-d still holds you responsible). This is a disagreement between Rabbi Meir and the Chachamim (Bava Kama 100a). The conclusion is that at least some form of indirect damages is liable in Beis Din.

How, exactly, you define indirect damages is a matter of lengthy discussion. If the action itself is damaging, just not directly, like burning someone's loan documents, the loss of the paper is not the damage, it is the inability to collect the loan. That is the classic example of Garmi and the Halach is that it is liable.

However, if the damage was contributory - say someone thew something down from a roof and the damager came and quickly removed the cushion - this is a large discussion in terms of if the person is liable or not (most likely not, it is a very minority opinion otherwise) and exactly how you distinguish this from Garmi. This is called Grama.

Exactly how you apply that to this case is a question for a Rav/Beis Din and will most certainly be decided on a case by case basis, based on the totality of the facts.

[It seems to me that the fact that the person had to actively open the attachment to be damaged is going to make it hard to make the case that this was Garmi, but nothing in this Sugia is open and shut.]

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Remember, Grama is still Chayav latzeit yedei shamayim. –  Yehuda May 16 at 21:46
    
I have a vague recollection from years ago that the difference between g'rama and garmi is that the latter is done miyad, done b'yad, and with bari hezeka. Is that itself a matter of dispute (or am I wrong altogether)? –  msh210 May 18 at 4:10
    
@msh210 that is right, but not the only potential distinction. –  Yishai May 18 at 13:55

No, you're not responsible, just as you aren't responsible if you send your friend a bottle of wine that gets poisoned somewhere along the way. As long as you didn't knowingly infect his computer, you're OK.

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Is this your own idea or do you have a source for it? –  msh210 Jul 9 at 4:45
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What if you send your friend a bottle of poisoned wine? –  Shmuel Brin Jul 9 at 6:29

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