The Contact Solution Problem
It was late at night when Moshe got back to his dorm room. He had been chatting with some friends in another room, and the conversation was still replaying itself in his mind. As he pondered his friend’s words, he suddenly noticed that his throat was feeling a little dry. Moshe looked around for a cup. Scanning the room, he eyed a disposable plastic cup, sitting on the table. He quickly filled the cup with water, and took a drink. The water had a bit of a tang, but Moshe was so thirsty that the taste didn’t bother him. He refilled the cup, took another drink, and then got ready to go to sleep.
Moshe awoke the next morning to find sunlight streaming into his eyes, and his roommate frantically searching for something.
“Chaim, what’s wrong?” Moshe inquired.
“I can’t find my contact lenses anywhere!” explained Chaim. “I better find them quickly, because it will be hard for me to get around without them. I just don’t understand. I left them in a disposable plastic cup, on the table last night, soaking in lens solution. Where could they possibly have gone?”
Moshe swallowed hard. So that explained the funny tasting water incident, from the night before.
“Uh, Chaim, I have to tell you something…”
Is Moshe obligated to compensate Chaim for the lenses which Moshe drank?
Answer of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l:
Moshe is not obligated to pay Chaim, for the following reasons:
a) The act was not done in a manner of ‘causing damage,’ rather, it was done in the manner of ‘drinking’
b) Moshe had no reason to suspect that the cup contained contact lenses. Therefore, it is considered oness gamur (complete duress), and there are opinions which maintain that one who causes damage under duress is absolved from paying.
c) The owner of the lenses is the guilty party, in this case, because he left an expensive item in a cup, on a shared dorm room table. Therefore, even according to those who maintain that one must pay for damage which he caused under duress, in this case, there is no obligation to pay, because the loss was the fault of the owner.