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Bailment in United Kingdom

Definition of Bailment

(from Fr. bailler, to place in charge of, cf. Bail)

In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Bailment :

The transfer of the possession of goods by the owner (the bailor) to another (the bailee) for a particular purpose. Examples of bailments are the hiring of goods, the loan of goods, the pledge of goods, and the delivery of goods for carriage, safe custody, or repair. Ownership of the goods remains in the bailor, who has the right to demand their return or direct their disposal at the end of the period (if any) fixed for the bailment or (if no period is fixed) at will. This right will, however, be qualified by any lien the bailee may have over the goods. Bailment exists independently of contract. But if the bailor receives payment for the bailment (a bailment for reward) there is often an express contract setting out the rights and obligations of the parties. A bailment for which the bailor receives no reward (e.g. the loan of a book to a friend) is called a gratuitous bailment.


Bailment, in law, a delivery of goods from one person called the bailor, to another person called the bailee, for some purpose, upon a contract, express or implied, that after the purpose has been fulfilled they shall be redelivered to the bailor, or otherwise dealt with according to his direction, or kept till he reclaims them. The following is Chief Justice Holt’s classification of bailments in Coggs v. Bernard, 1704, 1 Sm. L.C. 167, which is generally adopted. (Types:)

  • Depositum, or bailment without reward, in order that the bailee may keep the goods for the bailor. In this case, the bailee has no right to use the thing entrusted to him, and is liable for gross negligence, but not for ordinary negligence. (1)
  • Commodatum, or loan, where goods or chattels that are useful are lent to the bailee gratis, to be used by him. The bailee may be justly considered as representing himself to the bailor to be a person of competent skill to take care of the thing lent (Wilson v. Brett, 1843, 11 M. & W. 113), and the transaction being a gratuitous loan, and one for the advantage of the bailee solely, he is bound to use great diligence in the protection of the thing bailed and will be responsible even for slight negligence. (2)
  • Locatio rei, or lending for hire. In the case of hiring the bailee is bound to use such diligence as a prudent man would exercise towards his own property. (3)
  • Vadium, pawn or pledge; a bailment of personal property as a security for a debt. In this case the pledgee is bound to use ordinary diligence in guarding the thing pledged.
  • Locatio operis faciendi, where goods are delivered to be carried, or something is to be done about them for a reward to be paid to the bailee. In this case, the bailee is bound to use ordinary diligence in preserving the property entrusted to him.
  • Mandatum, a delivery of goods to somebody, who is to carry them, or do something about them gratis. The liabilities of a mandatory and of a depository are exactly the same; neither is liable for anything short of gross negligence.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)



  1. Thus, where a customer had deposited some securities with his banker (who received nothing for his services) and they were stolen by a cashier, it was held that as there was no proof of gross negligence the banker was not liable (Giblin v. McMullen, 1868, L.R. 2 P.C. 317).
  2. Thus, where a [v.03 p.0221]horse was lent to the defendant to ride, it was held that it did not warrant him in allowing his servant to do so (Bringloe v. Morrice, 1676, 1 Mod. 210). But where a horse was for sale and the vendor allowed the defendant to have the horse for the purpose of trying it, it was held that he had a right to allow a competent person upon the horse to try it (Camoys v. Scurr, 1840, 9 C. & P. 383).
  3. Thus, where the defendant hired a horse, and it having fallen ill, prescribed for it himself instead of calling in a veterinary surgeon, he was held liable for the loss (Dean v. Keate, 1811, 3 Camp. 4).

See Also

Banks, Banking; Carrier; Diligence; Factor; Hiring; Inns and Innkeepers; Lien; Negligence; Pledge; Pawnbroking; Principal and Agent.

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Bailment
  • Author: Agostino Von Hassell
  • Description: Definition of Bailment (from Fr. bailler, to place in charge of, cf. Bail) In accordance with the work A Dictionary of [...]

This entry was last updated: October 19, 2016


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