Legal Advice & Guidance for Soferim
I just went through a very harrowing legal situation with a customer who purchased a Sefer Torah through my store. B"H, emes won out - but the legal fees and other procedural costs are crushingly hard to bear.
It seems, though, from talking to other brokers of Torah scrolls, particularly used scrolls, that many people are on pins an needles after the recent scandal regarding Holocaust era and "rescued" European scrolls. Does anyone else have this sensation?
A few legal insights and lessons I learned were:
1) In the sales contract, it must state that "kosher" is not the same as "immaculate physical condition." It sounds obvious to we soferim, but many people who do not know better cannot make this subtle distinction and assume that "kosher" means pristine and like-new condition.
2) /I will never again agree to give every single detail of the repairs to customers. I emailed daily logs of everything done to the sefer as per the customer's request. They absolutely freaked out at every single email - eventually they were convinced that the Torah must be riddled with problems and was somehow "defective." The issues I repaired were very small things: little tears in the margins, resewed some seams, replaced reinforcing matleisim, and cleaned several smudges. Oddly, a result of providing them with so much detail, is that they became convinced that I was hiding details!
3) I have a clause in the contract which states that any "opinions as to the origin or age of this scroll are given in good faith and to the best of the Sofer's knowledge, yet are not a guarantee as to the origin or age of this scroll; other experts may disagree with the Sofer's opinions." In the future, I will add something that binds the buyer to acknowledge that the validity of the purchase is not predicated on the exact origin or age of a scroll.
4) I will add also that, once the customer sells or transacts the Torah to another entity, or once they have allowed another sofer to perform repairs or replace eitzim, that my initial warranties as to kashrus, condition, etc. are no longer valid. If another sofer decides to tinker with my work, I will not take responsibilities for his mistakes.
Does anyone else have any practical advice to safeguard oneself? I realize that most of us are probably not attorneys, but I am looking to share insights and idea, if anyone has some to offer.