I was in a store selling albums, frames etc.- I walked through the store and without realizing apparently knocked over a frame on a shelf that broke. It clearly was in a non-secure location – presumably either leaning into the aisle, or not resting securely on the shelf– and that’s why it got broken. The owner of the shop said that I should ask a moreh horaah whether I am obligated to pay.

Answer:

Because it appears that the item was not in its proper place, and it was possible sticking out, you won’t be obligated to pay for the damage.

However, you can perhaps offer to pay something towards the cost (it is possible that you were negligent in your walking) – though again, there is no obligation to do so.

Sources:

See Choshen Mishpat 412; 421. Although a person is liable even for damages that he commits without negligence, this is not true when the damaged party was negligent. In this case, it is possible that the item was sticking out, and in a similar case the Shulchan Aruch writes that if a person steps on an item and damages it, he is not liable to pay. Out of doubt, therefore, there is no obligation to pay.

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