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Thought for the Day: Explanation of Liability for Damage Done by Rented/Rentable Oxen

Yesterday I wrote about the obligations of the owners and renters to pay for damage done by the oxen for rent.  There are two cases, in each Ralph rents regular (but leibadich) ox from Leon.  You may want to review, but here is the executive summary is:
Case I: The rented ox kills another ox while Ralph is renting it.  It is revealed that Leon actually rented Ralph a certified violent ox.  The damaged party is due full compensation, since the damage was done by a certified violent ox Ralph is obligated to pay the half damages that would be due if the ox had, in fact, been regular (not certified violent); Leon is responsible for the rest.
Case II: The ox becomes certified violent during the rental period.  The ox, after Ralph returns her, kills another ox.  The damaged party is due only limited half damages, as the ox has returned to her status of normal (no longer certified violent) once she was returned to Leon.  Leon pays the limited half damages; Ralph is off the hook completely.
Note that in Case I, the status of the animal was independent of who had control of her (r'shus einah m'shaneh); ie, that's her nature.  In Case II, though, her status changes from certified violent to normal when the stewardship changed (r'shus m'shaneh); ie, depends on how she is nurtured.  Seems to be a head on contradiction, as both cases are in a single ma'mar Chazal.  There are three ways to handle resolving the contradiction, and the gemara explores all three.

R' Yochanan punts; yep, it's two different opinions that were mistakenly put into one statement.

Rava says, since Case I says that nature is king, Case II must agree.  In that case, why did Leon only have to pay half damages?  Simple, Leon has every right to assume that Ralph was totally negligent in guarding the animal.  Any landlord knows that renters do not have the same concern for maintenance and upkeep that the owner himself does.  Therefore, Ralph doesn't have the legal ability to convert the ox to certified violent.  Ralph, on the other hand, is exempt because he is no longer connected to the animal at all when the damage was done.  Maybe Ralph was negligent, and maybe that will affect the animal for a long time.  That's included in the cost of doing this kind of business and -- in order to keep the marketplace running smoothly -- society absorbs some of that cost.

Rav Papa says, since Case II says that nurture is king, Case I must agree.  That being the case, why does the animal get treated as certified violent when Ralph took control?  Even though the ox is under Ralph's stewardship, Leon is still his owner and the ox (as well as everyone else) knows that.  So in Case I there was no "change in responsibility", but "addition of responsibility".  The animal therefore retains whatever nurture he already had while waiting to be rented and remains that way even when rented out.

Not completely clear?  Good... that means you understand; there are very fundamental forces at work here and I have left lots (oodles and oodles) of details to the interested reader.


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