Jinxes, Jerseys and Jurisprudence

A recent bit of skullduggery:

NEW YORK (AP) — A construction worker’s bid to curse the New York Yankees by planting a Boston Red Sox jersey in their new stadium was foiled when the home team removed the offending shirt from its burial spot.

After locating the shirt in a service corridor behind what will be a restaurant in the new Yankee Stadium, construction workers jackhammered through the concrete Sunday and pulled it out. …

It took about five hours of drilling Saturday to locate the shirt under 2 feet of concrete, he said.

[Yankees CEO Lonn] Trost said the Yankees had discussed possible criminal charges against Castignoli with the district attorney’s office.

“We will take appropriate action since fortunately we do know the name of the individual,” he said.

A spokesman for Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said Sunday he did not know whether any criminal charges might apply.

“It’s typical Yankees,” Castignoli [the burier of the jersey] told the Boston Herald on Monday. “It’s not like I snuck in there. It didn’t do any structural damage. I didn’t put anyone in harm’s way.”1

The jersey’s subsequent fate:

BOSTON (AP)—The Boston Red Sox jersey secretly buried under the new Yankee Stadium in a failed curse attempt sold Thursday for $175,100 in a charity auction. …

The Yankees jackhammered the jersey out from under two feet of concrete earlier this month, then donated it to the Jimmy Fund, the Red Sox’s official charity that is affiliated with Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Meehan [the auction winner] plans to eventually display the jersey from his favorite Red Sox player in one of his car dealerships. He said he has no intention of selling it.2

What interests us, of course, are the theoretical Halachic ramifications of what the Yankees and their president Randy Levine are pleased to call Castignoli’s “very, very bad” and “dastardly” act. Could the Yankees demand compensation from Castignoli for the cost of undoing his malfeasance? We must consider at least three questions:

  • Is the burial of the jersey considered Hezek,
  • Is it Hezek Nikar and
  • Is one liable for reversible Hezek

The remainder of this post will be about the first point; we shall discuss the latter issues in subsequent posts, בג”ה.

The Theory of Compensatory Damages

Making Whole Or Compensation?

The standard principle of compensation for Hezek is the requirement to pay the assessed value of the depreciation:

שמין למזיק בידו כדרך ששמין לו אם הזיק ממונו כיצד הרי שהרג בהמת חבירו או שבר כליו שמין כמה היתה הבהמה שוה וכמה הנבילה שוה וכמה היתה הכלי שוה והוא שלם וכמה שוה עתה ומשלם הפחת לניזק עם הנבילה או הכלי השבור כדרך שנתבאר בשורו שהוזק בסימן ת”ג:3

The Shach, however, claims that this is only where rectification of the damage is impossible; otherwise, the primary obligation is to do so:

ועיין לעיל ס”ס צ”ה כתבתי דנראה דהיינו כשאין אפשר לתקן הכלי אבל אם אפשר לתקנו מחויב המזיק לתקנו ע”ש:4

There is considerable dispute about this point, which is beyond the scope of this post; the interested reader is directed to the cross referenced comments of the Shach5, Mishneh L’Melech6, Trumos Ha’Cri7, Hagahos Imrei Baruch8, Aruch Ha’Shulhan9, Hazon Ish10 and Pis’hei Hoshen11.

Depreciation Or Cost of Repair?

A related question is the liability of the tortfeasor where the depreciation he has caused is less than the cost of repairing the item, or even zero. One common example of this is the case where the damage is small relative to the overall value of the item, such as a broken window of a house or car; the damaged item may retain its previous market value, even though the repair cost may be substantial. This question, too, is beyond the scope of this post; we shall merely note here that there is (perhaps rather surprisingly) apparently very little discussion of this in the major Halachic literature, and almost none of which I am aware older than about a century; the interested reader should see Rav Shlomoh Zafrani’s analysis of the issue in his Mishpat Shlomoh12.

Owner-Specific Value

A third closely related question concerns the liability for damage to an object whose value is specific to its owner, but is worth less or even nothing to anyone else. This point is heavily discussed by the Aharonim of the last couple of centuries, beginning with the Nesivos13. While this discussion, too, is well beyond the scope of this post, here are the sources I know on this topic:

  • Rav Akiva Eiger14
  • Rav Yitzhak Shmelkes15
  • Rav Shlomoh Yehudah Tabak16
  • Maharsham17
  • Even Shesiyah18
  • Rav Yoav Yehoshua Weingarten19
  • Rav Avraham Dov-Ber Kahana-Shapiro20
  • Hazon Ish21
  • Rav Elazar Preil22
  • Rav Ben Zion Abba Shaul23
  • Rav Avraham Yaffah-Schlesinger24
  • Responsa Din Emes25
  • Ve’Darashta Ve’Hakarta26
  • Rav Masood Ben-Shimon27
  • Rav Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg28
  • Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach29
  • Rabbi Zvi Shpitz30
  • Kovetz Meishiv B’Halachah31
  • Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Blahson32
  • Piskei Din (Yerushalayim)33
  • Am Ha’Torah34
  • Imrei Ya’akov (ריש נזקי ממון ביאורים ד”ה על מנת לשלם))

The Hexed Stadium

Returning to Yankee stadium, Castigloni’s liability would seem to depend on the aforementioned questions, since the value of the property has presumably not fallen as a result of his action, but there is nevertheless a cost to undo the interment. Moreover, it can be argued that the damage is specific to the stadium owner, since other ball teams would probably not particularly care about a subterranean Red Sox jersey. Additionally, we note that all the sources cited above are dealing with objective damage, where there is no question that the functionality of the item has been diminished. In our case, however, unless one believes that jinxes in general, and this one in particular, are actually effective, there has been no damage whatsoever, and so even if most stadium owners in this situation would feel the need to disinter the jersey, perhaps that alone is insufficient grounds to consider the burial Hezek.

Even if we consider the burial Hezek, we must still determine whether the exemption of Hezek She’aino Nikar applies, and whether a tortfeasor is liable for reversible damage, as mentioned above. We shall analyze these questions in future posts, בג”ה.

UPDATE: Note that I originally mistakenly wrote ‘internment’ above, which I have now corrected to ‘interment’.

  1. Karen Mattews for the Associated Press, Apr 14, 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2008. []
  2. Melissa Trujillo for the Associated Press, Apr 24, 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2008. []
  3. שו”ע חו”מ סימן שפ”ז []
  4. ש”ך שם []
  5. סימן צ”ה ס”ק י”ח []
  6. טו”ן פרק ה’ הלכה ב []
  7. סימן שפ”ז []
  8. על הש”ך בסימן צ”ה []
  9. סוף סימן שפ” ז []
  10. בבא קמא סימן ו’ ס”ק ג []
  11. נזיקין פרק י’ הערה י”ח []
  12. נזיקין, סימן ו []
  13. סימן קמ”ח ס”ק א []
  14. שו”ת רע”א תנינא סוף סימן פ”ג []
  15. שו”ת בית יצחק אה”ע סימן ע”ג אות ט []
  16. ערך ש”י חו”מ סימן שפ”ו ד”ה ונתיבות סימן קמ”ח []
  17. שו”ת מהרש”ם חלק ו’ סימן ר”ט []
  18. שו”ת אבן שתיה סימן פ”ד []
  19. חלקת יואב חלק ב’ סימן צ”א ד”ה ואף דדעת הנתיבות []
  20. שו”ת דבר אברהם חלק א’ סימן ט’ אותיות ד – ה []
  21. שם []
  22. שו”ת המאור סימן מ”ט ד”ה ולכאורה י”ל, וסימן כ”ה ד”ה ובענין הבטחת []
  23. שו”ת אור לציון חלק א’ סימן ד []
  24. שו”ת באר שרים חלק ב’ סימן נ”ט []
  25. סימן ט”ז []
  26. סימן ו []
  27. שומרי משפט חלק התשובות סימן ע”א, ועיין דבריו על השו”ע סימן שס”ג ס”ק ח []
  28. שם חלק התשובות סימן צ’ אות א []
  29. שו”ת מנחת שלמה חלק ג’ סימן ק”ד, או תנינא סימן קל”ה []
  30. משפטי התורה נזקי ממון סימן כ”ד []
  31. גליון ז’ עמוד ע”ט []
  32. קובץ עומקא דדינא, נזיקין עמוד רס”ו []
  33. חלק ו’ עמוד קע”ג אות ב []
  34. ג, י”ד (תשנ”ז) עמוד פ”ה []
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