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Author:  Zel
E-mail:  zepha1@aol.com
Date:  10/1/2003 5:06:00 PM
Subject:  Unfair Claim, ribit and a broken-down car
Message:  Rabbi,

I am concerned about my financial obligation toward a friend after she lent me her car while she was away when I was visiting her city, LA.

her car was parked in her friends garage. when i got there the battery was dead. we started the car and off i went. then the car died again when parked outside my house. a mechanic started me up again and advised that i drive it for a good while to power up the battery. on that drive it dies yet again and i discover the problem is the alternator a bigger job than the battery.

so i arrange for the car to be brought outside my house but cant get hold of my friend for instructions on what to do with it nor am i able to speak to the friend in whose garage it was originally parked so as to repark it there.

then my friedn contacts me and says that she needs her car as soon as she arrives and would i arrange that for her. she gave me her mechanics number and asked me to shop around for quotes. I did. she consented to one and i arranged for the car to get collected and fixed and delivered to her door in time for her return (a series of small miracles due to the time constraints (an hour before my return flight) and LA law that prohibits mechanics working on the street etc).

Now my friend is back and says she could have had her car fixed for 60% less money than the mechanic i arranged for her and that she consented to. she suggested that i offer to contribute to her what i might have paid for a rental car. however, i do not know that i would necessarily have rented a car since most of my time in LA was yom tov and i left monday at noon.

It turns out that her car had had problms with the alternator before i ever got it that i was not aware of.

I believe that i would have been obligated for towing fees back to the original destination or even to a subsequent destination of her choice. I accept an obligation for any would be parking-tickets that would have been incurred had the car been parked on the street eg alternate side. however, the price of fixing her car for a pre-existing problem i do not believe is my obligation. there is no fault ascribed to me for the breaking of the alternator. what do i do? i feel guilty if i were to refuse payment but it smells of ribit for the loan of the car, and also of an unfair claim.
Please advise and shana tova
Reply:  Ribit is payment of interest for being able to keep the money for a period of time. This is not Ribit, but it is ridiculous. It comes from our lack of understanding basic Jewish Law. It's her car. She needs to take care of it herself. If she lends it to you, you're not responsible for pre-existing problems, for tickets, for towing, for anything. She should have sent a taxi to pick you up when you were stuck, because had you known the car was messed up, you wouldn't have taken it in the first place. Don't get into a fight over this, but this is the classic. I lent you my car, so you owe me......

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