Rav Baruch Rubanwitz a Rav in the Beis Hahora’ah

 

  1. It is often easy to determine who the claimant and the respondent in a case are. Sometimes both parties are claimants and both are respondents. Sometimes it is not straightforward and certain halachos need to be applied in order to determine which is which. The laws below are relevant when it has been clarified that there is one claimant and one respondent and it is known which is which.
  2. According to the prevalent custom amongst all Jews, Ashkenazic and Sefardic, a respondent can demand that any proceedings between the parties take place in the city where he lives.[1]
  3. Even if the beis din in the claimant’s city is recognized as more experienced and made up of more learned dayonim, the respondent is not required to leave his place of residence and can insist that a less learned beis din adjudicate.[2] Even if the claimant offers to pay the respondent’s expenses in order to have the hearing in the claimant’s locale, the respondent is allowed to demand that the proceedings take place in his city.
  4. There are a number of reasons for this law.

4.1.                     In a situation in which the beis din is unaware of any basis for the claim and the respondent might have proof that would easily and clearly refute the claim, the respondent is not required to follow the claimant. It is incumbent upon the claimant who seeks relief to travel to the respondent.[3]

4.2.                     The respondent is more likely to follow the ruling of the beis din in his own city.[4]

4.3.                     Giving jurisdiction to the beis din in the respondent’s city will prevent a dishonest person from suing a wealthy person in a different city in the hope that the latter will offer to settle out of court in order to avoid the cost and trouble of appearing in the claimant’s city.[5]

  1. According to all explanations, the custom developed for the benefit of the respondent. Therefore, if the respondent wishes to have the hearing in the claimant’s city, this is allowed. Furthermore, the claimant has no right to insist that the hearing be in the respondent’s city.
  2. A respondent who agrees to have the proceedings in the claimant’s city may choose whichever beis din he wishes. The beis din chosen or preferred by the claimant may not label the respondent a mesarev (recalcitrant) for choosing a different beis din as long as the respondent’s choice meets the basic requirements as an acceptable beis din.
  3. A claimant may reject the beis din in the respondent’s city if the dayonim admit that they were aware that the dispute was to be heard by a beis din and have already heard the respondent’s arguments without the claimant being present and without hearing the claims of the claimant.[6] Should the dayonim deny any such allegations, or even if they admit having heard the generalities of the case not in the context of a dispute but rather as a venting of frustrations and did not delve into the particulars of the case, the claimant cannot demand that the case be heard out of the respondent’s city.
  4. A respondent who demands that the hearing be held in his city should also notify the claimant as to which beis din is acceptable to him. The claimant may choose a beis din and the respondent may yet choose a different beis din in the same city. The claimant need not appear in the city for a hearing until such time as a date has been set for a hearing in a beis din acceptable to the respondent.
  5. If, as part of the initial terms of an agreement between the parties, it was agreed that any dispute would be heard in the claimant’s city, this clause of the agreement is binding without a specific kinyan regarding the matter. Such a commitment is included in the kinyan of the original transaction.[7]

9.1.                     If, after the transaction covered by the agreement has taken place, the parties wish to add a requirement that any hearing by a beis din be held in the claimant’s city, a new kinyan is required to make such an agreement enforceable.

9.2.                     If the respondent gave the claimant a verbal commitment to have the dispute adjudicated in the claimant’s city but no kinyan was made, the respondent has an ethical obligation to uphold his verbal commitment (unless there are extenuating circumstances), but it is not enforceable.[8]

9.3.                     An agreement to pay a loan, charges or other monies in the claimant’s city is not sufficient basis for requiring that all disputes be heard by beis din in the claimant’s city.[9]

  1. Should the claimant wish to avoid travelling to the respondent’s city and offer to send his arguments in writing to the beis din in the respondent’s city or in the claimant’s city, the respondent may refuse this offer. It is the prerogative of the respondent to cross-examine the claimant in front of the dayonim or present his position orally to the dayonim.[10]
  2. A respondent may not refuse to appear in beis din on the grounds that the cost of travelling and appearing in court in the claimant’s city exceeds the claim itself. The respondent is advised to appoint an attorney (to’ain rabbani) to appear on his behalf.

 

Exceptions When the Respondent Must Follow the Claimant

 

  1. There are some exceptions in which the respondent must appear in a beis din in the claimant’s city.

12.1.                A son or daughter must go to his/her parent’s city if summoned to a hearing; this is due to the laws of honouring parents.[11] All extra expenses must be covered by the parent; otherwise the child is not required to go.

12.2.                However, the son or daughter may choose whichever beis din he/she wishes in the parent’s city. Even if both parent and child reside in the same city and the parent chooses one beis din and the child chooses a different one, the parent must accept the child’s choice.

12.3.                The rule stated in Paragraph 12.1 does not apply to other relationships, even those that require extra honour. A grandparent, in-law, rabbi or talmid chochom must file suit in the respondent’s city.[12]

  1. Should the assets in dispute be located in the claimant’s city, the claimant may file suit there and the respondent must appear there, whether or not an injunction has been or can be issued against disposing of those assets. However, if the respondent places the value of the assets in escrow, or has other equivalent collateral or assurances in the claimant’s city, he can avoid an injunction against disposing of his property and can avoid having the hearing in the claimant’s city. Once the claimant has access to funds equal to the value of the assets in dispute, he must follow the respondent to the respondent’s city to file a claim.[13]
  2. If the respondent and claimant lived in the same city at the time of their commercial involvement and subsequently the respondent moved away, the beis din located in the claimant’s city shall have jurisdiction.[14]
  3. Even if the respondent never lived in the claimant’s city, but the business under dispute was clearly located there, the beis din in the city where the business is located has jurisdiction.[15] There are two reasons for this:

15.1.                The business was established with the intention of dealing with any dispute in that location. It is an unwritten condition of the agreement between the parties that the claimant will not have to pursue his claim regarding this business in another city.

15.2.                Many of the proofs, witnesses and evidence will be more easily available if the proceedings take place locally than if they were in another city.

In the case of damage to property by a passer-by who lives in a different city, the reason mentioned in Paragraph 15.1 is inapplicable. However, the reason mentioned in Paragraph 15.2 is sufficient to allow the claimant to have the hearing in the city where the damage was done. Appraisals, proof and other matters are more easily obtained where the damage was done.

  1. In cases where the claimant and respondent are from different cities and both happen to be in one city at the same time, whether it is the claimant’s city or a third city, the claimant may demand that the respondent appear in beis din there.[16] If, however, they are both from the same city and both happen to be in another city, the claimant cannot force a hearing there. The respondent can insist on waiting until they both return home.[17]
  2. Although the respondent must ordinarily respond to a claim if he is passing through the city where the claimant lives or happens to be, there are grounds for exceptions. If the respondent claims that it would be costly for him to stay and deal with this matter and supports this claim with evidence, and furthermore offers reasonable evidence that he will return within a reasonable period of time and will respond at that time in beis din, the beis din should not hold him in contempt and should grant him leave.
  3. Should the respondent claim that he is unprepared to respond to such claims now and needs time to review the case and organize his response, he cannot be held in that city. He must be allowed to return home. Once he has left, he is under no obligation to return to the city he was in and the claimant must file a new claim in the respondent’s city.[18]
  4. If the respondent wields great power with the local authorities and there is reasonable concern that the local dayonim would be unable to rule according to their conscience for fear of reprisal, the claimant may demand that the hearing take place in his city. All costs due to the change of location shall be borne by the respondent. However, if it is possible to arrange a zabla tribunal (an ad hoc beis din) that would not be unfairly influenced, the respondent may request that option and stay in his domain.[19] Under such circumstances in which there is no suitable beis din to adjudicate a dispute, an ad hoc zabla tribunal may be demanded by either party provided that the zabla tribunal follows all the requirements of a proper beis din (e.g., neither party is heard by a dayan unless both parties are present and the compensation provided to all dayonim is transparent and equal).
  5. Furthermore, if it can be shown that the claimant would be hindered in presenting his evidence in support of his claim in the respondent’s city, he may move to have the case heard in his city.


[1]  רמ”א חו”מ סי”ד ס”א.

[2]  תרה”ד סימן ס”ה ומהרי”ק שרש א’.

[3]  עיין אג”מ חו”מ ח”א סימן ה’ דמחלק בין היכא דלא ידוע מקום לתביעה דמדינא צריך התובע לילך אחר הנתבע לדעת אם יש על מה לדון והוא מטעם שכתב הגר”א סימן י”ד ס”ק י”ח מאן דכאיב ליה כאיביה אזיל לבי אסיא. משא”כ היכא דידוע שיש נידון עוד קודם ששמעו טענות מהתובע לא שייך סברא זו ומדינא דגמרא צריך הנתבע לילך לבית הועד כשרוצה התובע, ורק ממנהגא אזלינן בתר מקום הנתבע.

ודע, דכתבו כמה פוסקים דזכות התובע מדינא לילך לבית הועד היינו כשרוצה התובע חכמים גדולים יותר מזה שיש במקום הנתבע כדי לברר הדין יותר, אבל כשהם שווים וכל הנפק”מ הוא לענין טירחא, אין בכח התובע להטריח הנתבע מדינא.

[4]  שו”ת מהר”י בן לב ח”ג סימן צ”ז, וז”ל מנהג קבוע בכל המקומות שיש קהלות מרובות שהתובע הלך אחר הנתבע ואינם מחלקים בין שיהיה הנתבע עשיר או עני או אוהב או שונא לנתבע (לא ברור מה כוונתו בזה ואולי יש ט”ס), משום דכך הסכימו והוה ליה כאילו קבלוהו עליהם, והתקנה הזאת נראה שתקנוה משום שהיחיד הוא מוכרח ונכנע לפני הב”ד של הקהל שלו מה שלא יכנע אם יגזרו עליו זולתם עכ”ל.

[5]  מהרשד”ם סימן ז’ הובא בכנה”ג סימן י”ד בהגה”ט ס”ק כ”א, וכ”ה בלבוש סי”ד ס”ה. ובהגה”ט ס”ק כ”ב כתב דה”ה בדבר הנוגע לאיסור הדין כן ומקורו ממהרשד”ם א”ה סימן כ”ז.

[6]  ואע”ג שכתב הרמ”א בסימן י”ז ס”ה דאם נתרצה הבע”ד מותר לו להיות דיין אף שכבר שמע צד אחד בלא נוכחות הבע”ד השני, מ”מ הרי הברירה בידו של התובע לומר שאין רצוני בכך, ויכול לכוף שיהיה דיון בב”ד כדין. וכשאין ב”ד בעיר הנתבע שיכול לדונם, יכול לכופו לילך לב”ד בעיר אחרת. אמנם יכול הנתבע לבקש זבל”א בעירו באופן שיהיה ב”ד כשר ע”פ דין שישמעו הדיינים הטענות זה בפני זה וישלמו כל צד לדיינים בשוה וכו’.

[7]  עיין שו”ת מהרש”ם ח”ג סימן רי”ג.

[8]  עיין אמרי יושר סימן ל”ח בשם מהר”ם מינץ ודלא כמנ”ח מצוה רנ”ט.

[9]  עיין שו”ת שואל ומשיב מהדורה א’ ח”ג סימן י”ח דכתב דכל שהסכימו שהפרעון יהיה במקום התובע כלול בזה שקיבל ע”ע הנתבע שיהיה דן עמו שם במקום שמגיע לו הפרעון. אמנם במנחת אלעזר ח”ב סימן ב’ הקשה עליו וכן בערך שי סימן י”ד ס”א חולק עליו והקשה דא”כ כל מלוה יוכל לכוף ללוה הדר בעיר אחרת לדון בעירו של המלוה דהא מחוייב להביא הפרעון למלוה, וזה לא שמענו.

[10]  ספר העיטור אות ב’ — בירורין, כמו שחז”ל אמרו מפיהם ולא מפי המתורגמן ה”ה מפי כת”י דחד טעמא נינהו.

[11]  רמ”א סי”ד ס”א. ובאמרי יושר ח”א סימן ל”ח מסתפק אי מסרב הבן לבא אי חשבינן ליה כמסרב לדין כיון שאינו אלא מדין כיבוד אב ואם.

[12]  עיין ערוך השלחן סי”ד ס”ד דרק מי שהוקש כבודם לכבוד המקום. ועיין בפת”ש סי”ד סק”ד דה”ה תלמיד הולך אחר רבו, ומ”מ לא הזכרנו את זה כיון דכבר כתב בתומים דאי”ז אלא ברבו מובהק, ואי”ז מצוי בזה”ז.

[13] עיין תה”ד סימן ש”ה, סמ”ע סי”ד ס”ק ט”ו, דברי מלכיאל ח”ג סימן קס”ז ובחוו”י סימן קנ”ו. אמנם בישועות ישראל חולק וס”ל דכל שלא עכבו המעות בפועל אין לכופו לדון במקום המעות.

[14]  ישועות ישראל סימן י”ד סק”ג, וע”ע שו”ת מהרשד”ם חו”מ סימן שפ”ו.

[15]  דברי מלכיאל ח”ג סימן קס”ז. וכך נהגו בבתי דין בישראל שמקום העסק קובע מקום הדיון.

[16]  עיין רמ”א סי”ד ס”א.

[17] שו”ת מהרש”ם ח”ד סימן פ”ז.

[18] מהרי”ל דיסקין רשימות ספקות ופסקים אות ט’ (דף מו.).

[19]  עיין עבודת הגרשוני סימן מ”ז.

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