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A friend recently sat on a jury in a civil case where there were two defendants in the case of an injured party, each claiming the other was responsible, and the jury had to decide. I'm curious how a beit din would have resolved this. (I am asking out of curiosity; I'm not a party to any of this.)

The case involved a customer who was severely injured by a shop's automatic door. The shop claimed that the manufacturer of the door was responsible; the manufacturer of the door claimed the shop had not performed routine maintenance and so was responsible. The victim, of course, wasn't party to any manufacturer warranty or maintenance obligations; she just wanted groceries. I think I have a basic understanding (from, e.g. Bava Metzia) of how cases of damages involving two parties might be resolved, but I don't know what happens with three.

I could imagine that a beit din might say that the victim has a claim against the shop and, separately, the shop has a claim against the manufacturer. Would they treat it as two independent cases like that, or would all parties convene? If the latter, on what basis would the beit din decide how to award damages, assuming they decided damages were due?

I'm interested in learning about the general case of how disputes are resolved when two parties are arguing about damage to a third. The specific case is what prompted the question and if there's something that makes that case unusual and not a good example I'm interested in hearing about that, but the core question is about the general case.

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I spoke to a friend who has sat as a dayan on many cases, in many different courts, and he told me that he is unaware of any hard and fast rule for such a thing, but that the general practice of beis din is to only deal with a case as it is brought, and only between one prosecutor and one defendant. In this situation, the prosecutor would have to sue both of the defendants, and beis din would rule on the liability of each independently. As a matter of convenience, a beis din may hear both cases at the same time, but not for the purpose of merging the cases but rather due to the overlap it just saves everyone involved time.

He also told me that the practice of his beis din was not to recommend or instruct a litigant as to what lawsuits would be to their advantage. Meaning, that if this shopper would have brought charges against the shop, and beis din ruled (hypothetically) that she had no case against the shop, they would not advise her to sue the manufacturer, although they may explain to her the reason that she has no case against the shop in such a way as to make it clear to her that she may have a case against the manufacturer.

If the beis din indeed decided that the shop was responsible for the shopper, it would then be the prerogative of the shop to press charges against the manufacturer if they thought they had a case against them. It would not be automatically rolled into the case adjudicated on behalf of the shopper.

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The injured party could only be fobbed off by the shop owner to the door manufacturer if while the door is installed in the shop always it has a shem mazik.

E.g., if you installed a recognizably dangerous device in your shop and someone was nizak on the device you could point out that seeing as you did not create the shem mazik and the shopper entered your shop at their own risk therefore there exists a direct mazik - nizak relationship between the manufacturer and the shopper.

However seeing as shop owners do not advertise their shops as dangerous places, the shop owner cannot claim there exists a connection between the shopper and the manufacturer and has to pay the shopper.

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  • Thanks. Could you please translate mazik/nazik for me? It's something about obvious danger, I gather? – Monica Cellio Feb 15 '16 at 2:03
  • @MonicaCellio mazik-damager, nizak-damaged one – Salmononius2 Feb 15 '16 at 2:34
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Mishna in BK 3, 11 הָיוּ שְׁנַיִם רוֹדְפִים אַחַר אֶחָד, זֶה אוֹמֵר שׁוֹרְךָ הִזִּיק, וְזֶה אוֹמֵר שׁוֹרְךָ הִזִּיק, שְׁנֵיהֶם פְּטוּרִין. אִם הָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶן שֶׁל אִישׁ אֶחָד, שְׁנֵיהֶן חַיָּבִין

[so also] where two [oxen] pursued one and the one defendant asserts, 'it was your ox that did the damage', while the other defendant asserts, 'it was your ox that did the damage', neither of the defendants will be liable. but where both of the [pursuing] oxen belonged to the same owner, liability will attach to both of them.

Everyone can reject the responsibility on the other. This is the first point.

But your case is different. The door is now the property of the shop. If an object of his property makes a damage, the owner of the shop needs to pay.

Because there are two steps in this case.
The door is obviously the property of the owner of this store. And since the first step is a Din between your friend and the owner of the store.

In a second step. It is possible that the owner of the store he will file a complaint against the manufacturer who sold him a defective door.

I understand that the damage did not happened exactly at time of the installation of the door.

The owner of the store must check his equipment, in the period preceding the damage.

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    I think you're onto something. Would you please elaborate on your reasoning? – LN6595 Feb 14 '16 at 21:23
  • You are more addressing the specifics of who is right or wrong in this case. The question was really asking more for procedure than for the psak of this particular case. (And the door may be bor and not be responsible for clothes - see nachalas dovid to bava kamma 6a) – Y     e     z Feb 15 '16 at 5:50
  • @Yez. The door during his fall is perhaps not a Bor. There is further considerations about mamon hamazik and clothes is not so simple. I hope to find some time this day to enlarge the treatment of the question About the procedure, obviously there as independent cases. There are transitive procedures as Shiabuda deRabbi Nathan. But it is an other subject. – kouty Feb 15 '16 at 7:11

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