This is “Summary and Exercises”, section 12.6 from the book The Legal Environment and Advanced Business Law (v. 1.0).
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Ownership and sale of goods are not the only important legal relationships involving goods. In a modern economy, possession of goods is often temporarily surrendered without surrendering title. This creates a bailment, which is defined as the lawful possession of goods by one who is not the owner.
To create a bailment, the goods must be in the possession of the bailee. Possession requires physical control and intent. Whether the owner or someone else must bear a loss often hinges on whether the other person is or is not a bailee.
The bailee’s liability for loss depends on the circumstances. Some courts use a straightforward standard of ordinary care. Others use a tripartite test, depending on whether the bailment was for the benefit of the owner (the standard then is gross negligence), for the bailee (extraordinary care), or for both (ordinary care). Bailees may disclaim liability unless they have failed to give adequate notice or unless public policy prohibits disclaimers. A bailee who converts the property will be held liable as an insurer.
A bailor may have liability toward the bailee—for example, for negligent failure to warn of hazards in the bailed property and for strict liability if the injury was caused by a dangerous object in a defective condition.
Special bailments arise in the cases of innkeepers (who have an insurer’s liability toward their guests, although many state statutes provide exceptions to this general rule), warehouses, carriers, and leases.
A warehouser is defined as a person engaged in the business of storing goods for hire. The general standard of care is the same as that of ordinary negligence. Many states have statutes imposing a higher standard.
A common carrier—one who holds himself out to all for hire to transport goods—has an insurer’s liability toward the goods in his possession, with five exceptions: act of God, act of public enemy, act of public authority, negligence of shipper, and inherent nature of the goods. Because many carriers are involved in most commercial shipments of goods, the law places liability on the initial carrier. The carrier’s liability begins once the shipper has given all instructions and taken all action required of it. The carrier’s absolute liability ends when it has delivered the goods to the consignee’s place of business or residence (unless the agreement states otherwise) or, if no delivery is required, when the consignee has been notified of the arrival of the goods and has had a reasonable opportunity to take possession.
Commodity paper—any document of title—may be negotiated; that is, through proper indorsements on the paper, title may be transferred without physically touching the goods. A duly negotiated document gives the holder title to the document and to the goods, certain rights to the goods delivered to the bailee after the document was issued, and the right to take possession free of any defense or claim by the issuer of the document of title. Certain rules limit the seemingly absolute right of the holder to take title better than that held by the transferor.
In a bailment, the bailee
In a bailment for the benefit of a bailee, the bailee’s duty of care is
A disclaimer of liability by a bailee is
A bailor may be held liable to the bailee on
The highest duty of care is imposed on which of the following?