Thursday, August 30, 2007

Demand Deposits (12) - Torn Donkeys

There are limits on the duty of care that is required when caring for something. The person providing safekeeping is not accountable for things that are beyond their control.

If a man gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to his neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the LORD that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person's property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, he must make restitution to the owner. If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, he shall bring in the remains as evidence and he will not be required to pay for the torn animal (Ex 22:10-13).
The principle is clear. The owner is the owner. The neighbour providing care is never the owner. If the animal is stolen, the neighbour must make restitution to the owner. If the animal is killed by wild animals, the neighbour does not have to make restitution, because this event was beyond his control.

The same applies to a bank. If it claims money that has been deposited as its own asset, it has committed theft. However, if the money is destroyed by a fire or war, the bank is not liable for the loss, because it was beyond the bank’s control. A bank must provide the best care possible for money on demand deposit, but it is not accountable for events beyond its control.

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