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A CRY FROM ARGENTINA

By: Rabbi Max Sutton



THE CASE

Jack was a lucky holder of a ticket to the final game of Argentina’s championship soccer match. Due to the contentious rivalry between Argentina’s two best teams, ticket prices were soaring to unfathomable sums. Jack, who purchased his ticket directly from the stadium for a mere $100, resold it to Michael for the whopping sum of $5,000. Unfortunately, due to obsessive behavior of the fans of both teams, a violent riot broke out in front of the stadium prior to game time. Eventually, police were compelled to cancel the game after fans stoned the busload of players of the opposing team arriving to the stadium. As a precautionary measure, the game was rescheduled in the country of Spain, and the ticket holders were reimbursed the face value of the tickets they purchased directly from the stadium. Michael approached Jack and requested of him to provide a complete refund of $5,000 on account of the cancellation. Jack refused, claiming that at the time he sold the ticket is was a valid sale and the subsequent cancellation of the game was Michael’s bad luck. Jack explained that the sale of the ticket is like the sale of any valuable item, and the seller is not responsible for mishaps once the buyer takes possession. Michael was flabbergasted by Jack’s audacity and demanded compensation in full.

Is Jack correct in his analysis? Is Michael entitled to reimbursement for the canceled game? How should the Bet Din rule and why?

TORAH LAW

According to the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch one who transfers to another party an exclusive right, holding, or property, consents to transfer along with it all the terms and conditions it includes. Hence, unless stipulated otherwise, a seller may not claim after a sale that he withheld from a buyer any of the basic rights or conditions tied to that acquisition. In our case at hand, since a ticket that is purchased from a stadium ticket office is refundable in the event of a rainout or cancellation, that basic right and condition is transferred to the second buyer.

Furthermore, in instances such as the one at hand, in which the back of the ticket clearly enumerated the refund policy in the event of cancellation, it is obvious that this right was transferred to the second buyer when he physically took possession of the ticket.

It stands to reason that the above ruling is applicable regardless of whether the second buyer purchased the ticket for its face value or for a greater amount. It is nonetheless his legal right to a refund, and if needed, he is entitled to dispute the credit card charge that he used to provide payment.

By rule of the Shulhan Aruch, a landlord whose home is destroyed due to circumstances beyond control is not required to rebuild the home to provide occupancy for his tenant. Once the home is destroyed, the landlord’s contractual obligation to the tenant is rendered null and void. Likewise, in such instances a tenant is free from any future obligation and is entitled to reimbursement of all prepaid rent after the home became uninhabitable. The above ruling is also applicable to one who sublets a property to another. Once the property is uninhabitable, a tenant is released from the sublet agreement and is entitled to a refund of any prepaid rent.

 It stands to reason that one who purchases a ticket is comparable to a tenant renting space from a landlord. Thus, if a stadium is unwilling to open its doors due to circumstances beyond control, they are required to reimburse a ticket holder for the prepaid ticket. As mentioned above, the same is applicable in a sublet agreement. Hence, one who resells a ticket he purchased from a stadium is required to reimburse a ticket holder in case of an unforeseen cancellation. In short, when the ticket office of the stadium, or the ticket scalper are unable to provide entry to the stadium, they are required to return the prepaid funds since they resemble the status of a landlord.

A Bet Din will dismiss a case if any form of illegal or criminal activity is present. Only upon verification that ticket scalping is not a federal or state offense in the country of Argentina, did our Bet Din rule on the matter.

Additionally, although the ticket was purchased for an exorbitant sum, nevertheless, the sum represented the market rate for the specific location of that seat. Hence, the Torah prohibition of price fraudulence was not violated.

VERDICT Rightfully Refundable

Upon verification that ticket scalping is not a federal or state offense in the country of Argentina, our Bet Din proceeded to rule on the matter, and duly awarded Michael with a complete refund. As mentioned in Torah law, upon sale of the ticket, one is not entitled to claim that he did not include in the sale a condition in case of cancellation.  Since the purchase of a ticket from a stadium includes the basic right for refund in the event of cancellation, unless Jack stipulated otherwise, that right was automatically transferred to Michael at the time of purchase. More specifically, explicit terms in the event of cancellation were written in fine print on the back of the ticket. Hence, when Michael took physical possession of the ticket the right for a refund was clearly transferred to him at that moment.

Additionally, one who purchases a ticket is similar to a tenant renting space for an allotted time period. By law, a landlord who is unable to offer his property to a tenant for occupancy is required to reimburse him the prepaid rent. The same law applies to a tenant subletting a property. Hence, when the ticket office of the stadium or Jack the ticket scalper is unable to provide entry to the stadium, they are required to refund the prepaid funds.