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The traditional common law, or judge-made law, holds a common carrier, such as a trucking company or railroad, is liable for damage to or loss of property, except where such damage or loss occurred by an Act of God or the public enemy, or was a result of the inherent nature of the property, the act or fault of the owner or shipper, or the act or order of public authority.
The modrenview is that, absent law to the contrary, the liability of a common carrier may be limited to a certain extent by special or express contract, provided the agreed limitation is just and reasonable and not against public policy. There is a difference of opinion, however, as to the right of a carrier to limit responsibility for losses due to its negligence or misconduct. To uphold a contract limiting or qualifying the common-law responsibility of a common carrier, it must be supported by a valid consideration. A reduction in the rates of transportation is valid consideration for a limitation of liability on the part of the carrier, as long as the shipper has an option to contract without any restrictions on the carrier's liability.
A common carrier of passengers, howeber, is not an insurer against accidents, and will only be liable for injury to a passenger where the injury is a result of negligence or recklessness on the part of the carrier or its employees.