What is Bailment?
Bailment, in law, is the delivery of personal property by one person (the bailor) to another (the bailee) for a particular purpose. The legal concept of bailment may include, under appropriate circumstances, many different kinds of transactions, among them being deposit, storage, checking, rental, pledge, lending, and acquisition by finding. The relationship described by the term may be classified generally as contractual. Express agreements between the parties for the purpose of including every phase of this relationship are not essential, since many of the rights and duties arising from it are implied by law.
Bailment is characterized by a transfer of possession, as distinguished from a change in ownership. Another factor generally recognized as being essential to a bailment is the return, or other use as directed by the bailor, of the article bailed. Thus, sales and exchanges are, in most cases, readily distinguishable from bailment; although in some instances differentiation is difficult, such as conditional sales arrangements and rentals with options to buy.
Bailments are divided into various classes, primarily for the purpose of determining the rights and liabilities of the parties. There are three usual classifications: (1) bailments for the benefit of both parties; (2) bailments for the sole benefit of the bailor; and (3) bailments for the sole benefit of the bailee. In addition, there are numerous special types of bailment to which special rules apply, such as those resulting from the delivery of property to banks, innkeepers, warehousemen, and common carriers.
In a bailment for hire, which is typical of the bailment for mutual benefit (for example, an automobile rental), the law implies a warranty by the bailor that the bailed article is fit for its intended use. The bailor, therefore, is liable for any injuries caused by its unfitness for use at the time of delivery. Where the bailment is for the sole benefit of the bailee, however, the bailor is legally obliged only to disclose to the bailee such defects in the article as are actually known to him.
The care that must be taken of the property by the bailee varies according to the type of bailment in some jurisdictions. In those states which recognize various degrees of care, the bailee for his own sole benefit must exercise great care; for mutual benefit, ordinary care; and for the bailor's sole benefit, only slight care. The normal liability of a bailee may be reduced or extended by special contract. A bailment may be terminated by the agreement or conduct of the parties, destruction of the subject matter, completion of the purpose of the bailment, lapse of time in accordance with the terms of the bailment, or death of the bailor or bailee.