Slurpee & Pittsburgh Fries
Joey was famished. Twenty-three hours were left till Passover, and his perspiring mother-in-law had not left the Passover Kitchen for nearly three days. Tonight, three months after his wedding party, Joey was on his own.
Joey called his wife Jane’s 17 year-old brother, Sam who was out on an errand and asked him to pick up a pizza pie for him and Jane. “I’ll pay you the $14 when you get back.” “Sure thing Joey” responded Sam as he instantly remembered that he had a two-dollar coupon sitting in his glove compartment. Sam was far from an unfamiliar chap in the lone kosher pizza parlor in Pittsburgh PA.
Sam arrived at Milky Way nearly at closing time and ordered the last pie. Figuring Jane would appreciate some ice, he ordered a coca cola flavored Slurpee for her. As Sam was waiting for the pie, the proprietor turned to him and said, “Hey Sam, Passover is at the door and we ought to clear out our remaining stock tonight otherwise we’ll have to dispose of it. Please, take the remaining 2 cheese and cherry knishes, 2 potato knishes and fries with you.” Sam conceded and headed home.
Experiencing an acute hunger pain while his eyes began to droop behind the wheel, he reached for the Slurpee and a slice. “Jane will wait for another time and I’ll tell Joey that there were only seven slices left. After all, I could have bought one piece for myself and then the rest for Joey and Jane.”
Ø May Sam take the Slurpee?
Ø If yes, does he need to get her a new one?
Ø May he take a slice?
Ø Must Sam pass the discount received over to Joey?
Ø How much does Joey owe Sam?
Ø Who takes the knishes and fries?
What's the Law?
Sam may take the Slurpee and need not buy Jane a new one. Sam may not take a slice for himself. He must pass the discount over to Joey. (If the coupon has a market value, he can charge Joey to pay for its market value.)
Generally, bonuses are to be split evenly between the grantor and the agent. If however, it is clear that Milky Way gave it specifically to Sam, which is doubtful, Sam would be able to hold the knishes and fries for himself.
Slurpee & Pittsburgh Fries invokes the following Halachos.
One can authorize an agent to legally represent him/her or act on his/her behalf. After effecting this Power of Attorney, the results of the legal acts the agent performs (e.g. legal transfers of ownership) are attributed to the grantor [Choshen Mishpat 182:1, 188:2].
2. Cognitive Components of Ownership Transfer
Amongst the necessary components of affecting a legal acquisition of merchandise between a seller/giver and buyer/receiver, 1) there must be a legally performed medium of acquisition called a kinyan, 2) the seller/giver must intend to part with the article and bequeath it to the recipient 3) the recipient must intend to acquire the article.
If the seller intends to bequeath it to the wrong recipient, or the receiver is unaware of the transaction, the transaction is invalid.
Nevertheless, an agent may affect a valid acquisition from the seller on behalf of his/her grantor even if the seller thought that the agent purchased the article for him/herself.
Upon receiving authorization from an agent to act on his/her behalf, the agent assumes the legal personality of the grantor whereby the grantor acts vicariously through the actions of the agent.
Thus, the seller who intends to sell the article to the “agent”, inevitably intends to sell it to the grantor.
However, a third party who never assumed the legal personality of the beneficiary can only facilitate the transfer of ownership between two parties if the seller is aware that the agent is acting on behalf of the receiver and the receiver consents to receive the article. If one of these factors are lacking, the purported receiver does not assume ownership of the merchandise [Choshen Mishpat 183 Sha”ch 1].
4. Agent Arranged Discount
A sent B with money to make a purchase or a payment. B was able to arrange for a discount. The saved money belongs to A. B may not keep the difference even though he enabled the discount [Choshen Mishpat 183:9].
5. Division of Bonuses
A sent B with money to make a purchase or a payment. B arranged for a clear bonus. The earnings belong to both A and B. Both A and B split the bonus [Choshen Mishpat ibid:6].
Two valid reasons are given for this:
1) It remains unclear whether the seller meant to award it to the one who paid for the merchandise or the one who completed the purchase [Rash"i].
2) The bonus was earned through a mutual partnership: A's money and B's physical role [Ri"f].
Potential variance between these two reasons:
According to the first reason, B may keep the entire bonus if the seller specifically added the bonus because of B.
However, if we say that the bonus was earned through a partnership, B may never fully piggyback off of A's money.
6. Changing the Status Quo
“The onus of proof lies upon the party interested in altering the fund’s status quo” [Bava Kama 46]
The litigant who is in possession of the beleaguered funds cannot be compelled to relinquish them to his counterpart as long as there is a legitimate Halachic view supporting his claim. (His/her counterpart must “prove” that the Halacha supports his/her claim) See Choshen Mishpat Klalei Tefisa §25: 20 for guidelines as to what is considered a legitimate view.]
Joey authorized Sam to purchase a pie for himself and Jane. Once Sam executes the assignment, Joey automatically assumes ownership of the purchase. Sam would be stealing if he would take one of Joey’s slices.
Jane did not authorize Sam to purchase a Slurpee for her. Sam did so in his own volition. Thus, Sam is not guilty of theft if he suddenly needed the Slurpee for himself and he need not compensate her with another one either.
If Sam told the proprietor that he was purchasing the Slurpee for Jane, Sam would be unable to take it for himself subsequently. Sha"ch rules that once the proprietor knows that he is purchasing it on Jane's behalf, Jane would assume ownership of the Slurpee immediately.
Sam arranged for a $2 discount for Joey. The pie only cost Joey $12. Sam cannot pocket Joey’s remaining $2 for himself. If the coupon had a market value, perhaps Sam can charge Joey to compensate him for its value.
Milky Way was interested in giving away the food instead of disposing it. Arguably, they gave it to Sam because he was the last customer there before closing time, not because of the special relationship they had with him.
Milky Way awarded them with a bonus. A bonus is divided between the agent and the owner of the funds. Be it because it is questionable to whom they meant to award it or because of the partnership between the agent’s effort and the grantor’s money, in our case the bonus should be divided.
Were it clear that Milky Way intended to give it to Sam because of their special relationship with each other, Joey and Jane would have a hard time compelling Sam to share the bonus with them.
Why? According to Rashi’s school of thought, Sam could keep it if he knows clearly that the seller intended to award it specifically to him. According to Rif, even if the seller intended to give it specifically to Sam, Joey and Jane would receive their share in the pie because the bonus was partly generated on account of their money.
As both schools of thought are legitimate Halachic opinions, we would apply the dictum of hamotzi mechaveiro alav hara’ya and allow Sam to hold on to the knishes and fries for himself.
 Exceptions to this rule exist. A person’s property can act as an agent or legal arm to acquire ownerless objects that fall inside of which the owner will inevitably find there sooner or later.