By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
A person hired a taxi while traveling up North in Israel. The emergency siren went off and the driver and passenger quickly ran to an underground shelter. After fifteen minutes the all clear was given and the driver and passenger were able to return to the car. In the interim, the meter of the taxi was running. Is the passenger required to pay for the time they were in the shelter or not?
An additional related question; a couple were flagging down a taxi to go to Manhattan when a third person stopped them and said, “I need to go to the same location in Manhattan as you. May I join?” They then took the taxi together. How does the payment get divided? Does the couple pay half and the other person half? Does the payment get divided per person; with the couple paying two thirds and the other person paying only one third?
Reb Yitzchok Zilbershtein and others paskened regarding the first question that the passenger would be required to pay for the time spent in the shelter while they waited for the all clear signal. The driver behaved as he was supposed to by stopping and seeking shelter, so it is considered as if they were stuck in traffic; time the passenger must understandably pay for. Rabbi Shamai Gross added that had the driver refused to stop, the passenger would have protested and said that it is dangerous to be on the roads right now. This indicates that the stopping for shelter is part of the taxi ride. In addition, since this alarm is not heard across the whole country, it is only heard in that section and the passenger asked to be driven there, the passenger is required to pay for the stop.
Reb Naftoli Nussbaum argues with this and says that this would be considered as if an “oneis” occurred. The halacha is that if one hires a person and the person gets caught up with an accident and he can no longer do the job, the “Baal Habayis” is not responsible to pay.
Reb Shmuel Eliezer Stern said that this would be considered a “makas medina” where everyone is afflicted with this problem. He rules that in such a case there is an argument whether the “Baal Habayis” is required to pay and therefore one would pay only half of the time for waiting. This would depend upon the area of the alarm. If the alarm is just concentrated in one area, then it would not be considered a “makkas medina.” However, if the alarm is across the country, then they would need to split the cost of the stop.
Reb Chaim Kanievsky, among other Gedolim paskened regarding the second question that the couple is required to pay half and the other passenger is required to pay the other half. The reason for this is that it is considered as if two families hired a cab and each family may bring up to two people. Just because the third passenger did not bring an extra person does not mean that the first family should pay per person.
There are other Gedolim who disagreed with this psak, among them Rabbi Mordechai Gross and Rabbi Yaakov Meir Stern. They are of the opinion that if people travel in a “tender,” (a group taxi) the fare is based on the amount of people in the car.
It would stand to reason that the answer depends upon what type of taxi one takes. If one is using an Uber, the latest mode of transportation, it usually includes up to two people unless you order for extra passengers. It would stand to reason that in the case mentioned above that the couple should pay for half and the other passenger pays the other half.