Special Bailment Law and Legal Definition

Special bailments are those which require the bailee to use extraordinary care. Under common law, these bailees may be held absolutely liable for loss or damage caused to the property. Common carriers, warehouse companies and innkeepers are a few examples of special bailees.

Common carriers are publicly licensed to provide transportation services to the general public. They are absolutely liable, regardless of negligence, for all loss or damage to goods in their possession, except if it is caused by an act of God, an act of a public enemy, an order of a public authority, an act of the shipper, or by the nature of the goods.

A warehouseman is liable for damages for loss of or injury to the goods caused by his failure to exercise such care in regard to them as a reasonably careful man would exercise under like circumstances. However, unless otherwise agreed he is not liable for damages which could not have been avoided by the exercise of such care. A warehouse company can limit the dollar amount of liability, but the bailor must be given the option of paying an increased storage rate for an increase in the liability limit [UCC 7–204(2)].

Innkeepers who provide lodging to the public for compensation as a regular business are strictly liable for injuries caused to guests. However in many states, innkeepers can avoid strict liability for loss of guests’ valuables by providing a safe. Statutes often limit the liability of innkeepers for articles that are not kept in the safe.