THE JERUSALEM INSTITUTE OF JEWISH LAW
Lesson # 91•Laws of Agency (Part 2)
Continuing the questions regarding the moneys sent by the debtor to pay his debt to the creditor. The creditor admits that the writing he sent with the agent to collect the moneys from the debtor is his writing. The agent admits receiving the moneys from the debtor. The agent pleads that the moneys were lost by an act of God and that thus he is not liable to the creditor. The creditor now disputes the agent's contention that the moneys were lost by the agent as a result of an act of God. Or else he disputes the statement of the debtor that he gave the moneys to the agent. The agent takes the oath of the bailee, and the agent and the debtor are free of liability. The creditor may have a ban proclaimed against the debtor that he gave the money to the agent.
There is a dispute between the creditor and his agent whether the agent turned over to the creditor the moneys he received from the debtor, the agent pleading that he gave the moneys to the creditor and the creditor pleading that he never received them from the agent. The agent, in the presence of the creditor and the debtor, must take a hesseth oath that he gave the money to the creditor. The creditor can impose a ban on debtors who claim they gave the money to the agent, but did not.
The debtor owes $50 to the creditor. The creditor, in the presence of witnesses, or by his own admission, appointed an agent to collect the money from the debtor. The debtor pleads that he paid the creditor's agent the entire $50 owed and the agent pleads that he delivered the $50 to the creditor. The creditor pleads that he instructed the agent to collect only $20 from the debtor and that the agent did deliver only $20 from the debtor to the creditor. There is an opinion that the debtor, upon taking a hesseth oath of payment of the $50, is free of the other $30, since the creditor did not instruct the debtor to pay only $20.
The debtor pleads that he gave the money to the agent appointed by the creditor, and the agent pleads that he was not given the money by the debtor. The agent thereby admits that he turned no moneys over to the creditor, since he received no money to turn over to him. The creditor now desires to pursue his remedies against the debtor and/or his own agent. The creditor's agent takes a hesseth oath in the presence of the debtor and wins his case against the creditor. The debtor in turn in the presence or the agent, takes a hesseth oath and he wins the case against the creditor.
The creditor did not appoint the messenger as his agent, but rather the debtor appointed the messenger to bring the money to the creditor. Or a person came to the debtor and said that he was appointed by the creditor to get the money to bring it to the creditor, and the debtor believed him and gave him the money. The creditor pleads that he did not appoint the messenger and did not receive the money. The debtor pleads that the messenger took the money, and the messenger pleads that he gave the money to the creditor. If the messenger and the creditor are in Beth Din, the creditor takes an oath holding a sacred object that he did not receive the money and judgment will be entered in favor of the creditor against the debtor. Then the messenger takes a hesseth oath that he gave the money to the creditor and judgment will be entered in favor of the messenger against the debtor if the debtor sues the messenger to obtain the money the creditor pleads he did not receive. If the messenger pleads that the article or money was lost by an act of God, the creditor will obtain a judgment against the debtor without the necessity of having to take an oath. The messenger will take the Torah oath of bailees to be free of liability to the debtor.
If the messenger died or left the country. and the creditor sues the debtor for the money, there is no necessity for the creditor to take the oath that he did not receive the money from the messenger, since the messenger is not here to plead to contradict him and thus require an oath from the creditor. The debtor may have a ban proclaimed against those who have received money to pay off a debt and deny the receipt and sue to collect on a paid debt.
The debtor owes $100 to the creditor. The creditor owes $100 to Reuven. The creditor instructs the debtor to pay the $100 to Reuven. The debtor pleads that he paid the money to Reuven, and Reuven denies having received the money. The debtor takes a hesseth oath that he paid Reuven and is free of liability to the creditor. Reuven takes an oath while holding a sacred object that he did not receive the $100 and the creditor must pay him.
A creditor loans money to the debtor and takes collateral security from the debtor. The creditor deposits the collateral security with Reuven for safekeeping. The creditor makes a demand upon Reuven for the return of the collateral. Reuven responds that the creditor had sent an agent to him to retrieve the collateral, and that pursuant to the wishes of the creditor, Reuven delivered the collateral to the agent of the creditor. Somehow, the debtor is now in possession of the collateral, and the creditor pleads that he has not been repaid and demands the collateral from the debtor. The debtor now pleads that it was the creditor who returned the collateral to him when he repaid the debt to the agent of the creditor and does not owe anything to the creditor. The creditor pleads that he has not appointed any agent to receive the collateral from Reuven or the debt from the debtor, and that there is collusion between Reuven and the debtor. The creditor takes an oath that he did not send any agent, and Reuven will have to pay to the creditor the value of the collateral. The debtor is free of liability without having to take an oath.
A debtor instructs a messenger to deliver an article of personal property to the creditor as security for a debt owed by the debtor. The debtor has several creditors. The messenger does not recall to which creditor of the debtor he gave the article, and they all deny having received the security. The messenger has acted negligently and is liable for the article.
The principal may discharge the agent at any time. Even if the appointment was in writing, or was made in Beth Din, or was made with a kinyan the agent may be discharged orally. The discharge need not be in the presence of witnesses or in the presence of the agent.
What if the creditor appoints an agent to collect the debt from the debtor and the agent was discharged before the agent collected the debt and the debtor paid the agent after the discharge? If the debtor was aware of the discharge before he repaid the debt to the agent, the debtor remains liable until the payment reaches the creditor. If the debtor was not aware of the discharge when he paid the agent, then the debtor is relieved of liability as soon as he pays the agent. If the agent represents the creditor in a lawsuit in Beth Din against the debtor and the debtor is not aware that the agent had been discharged, the judgment rendered by the Beth Din is binding on the creditor if the debtor wins the lawsuit. All of the foregoing applies even if the agent knew that he had been discharged and failed to disclose this to the debtor.
The death of the principal terminates the agency, no matter how the agent was appointed. The debtor's lack of knowledge of the death of the principal does not relieve the debtor of liability until the moneys are delivered to the heirs of the principal if he made payment to the agent after the death of the principal. Therefore if the agent, for any reason whatsoever, including an act of God, does not deliver the money to the heirs, the debtor is not relieved of liability to the heirs.
The subject matter of this lesson is more fully discussed in Vol. IV, Ch.121 of A Restatement of Rabbinic Civil Law by E. Quint, published by Jason Aronson, Inc. and on sale at local Judaica bookstores.
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