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For the couple
The rabbi made a commitment to the couple that she will officiate at their wedding and she didn’t. Period. That is the crux of the matter and that’s what we should be focusing on, nothing else. She did not perform her end of the deal and so no payment should be expected. Even if we consider her “incapacitation” to be not of her fault, nevertheless, the fact remains that the expected service was not fulfilled and therefore should not be paid.
On the issue of giving the rabbi compensation for the efforts made for preparing for the said ceremony, I believe that her failure to do her end of the deal has waived her right to compensation for the efforts made.
Moreover, the couple are in fact, the ones in the position to demand for damages on their end. You have to understand that the rabbi’s cancellation may have caused significant problems for the couple. They must have undergone considerable emotional and psychological stress of not having anyone to officiate the ceremony in a short period of time prior to the actual wedding. Also, this development may have been more expensive for them, given the fact that they had to request for the said service on a “rush” basis. As such, I think it is the couple who should even be paid for compensatory damages by the rabbi in this case.
For the rabbi
The rabbi could not be held at fault for her incapacitation, since this was out of her hands and was circumstantial. Also, as the ceremony’s celebrant, it was inevitable for her to have made preparations for it prior to the actual day of the event. Therefore, even though she was not able to fulfill her commitment to their agreement, she should still have the right to demand for payment for the efforts and resources that were used in her preparation for the wedding ceremony and should be paid $500.
For the couple
The couple’s break-up or the groom’s death, was a development that happened inadvertently. Thus, they shouldn’t be held responsible for it and concurrently, should not be asked to pay the fee being asked for by the rabbi.
For the rabbi
For all intents and purposes, the rabbi did her part in preparing for the ceremony and was all set to officiate come wedding day. The unfortunate incident of the couple breaking up or the death of the groom, tragic as it may seem, shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to not pay the rabbi what is due to her. She was not responsible for the reason as to why the wedding didn’t commence in the first place. In addition, she has also spent resources for preparing for the ceremony. Thus, it is but proper for her to be paid the fee or amount that was agreed upon.