A business which peculiarly serves the public is subject to the peculiar regulation of the state and is known as a public utility or public service business. Historically foremost among such businesses is that of the common carrier. An innkeeper has also from early times been subject to an onerous liability as bailee with a duty to serve all who come.12a
In the consideration of the subject of extraordinary bailments, we note that the subject is, apart from the law of bailments, one phase of the larger law of public service businesses, now frequently described as the law of public service corporations. The ordinary business man - the merchant or the manufacturer - serves whom he pleases, when and as he pleases. He asks for no public franchise; he uses no public domain; his business is not monopolistic. But the public service company must (1) serve all who come; (2) indiscriminately and (3) at reasonable rates.
Historically the carrier of passengers and goods, occupies the foremost, as it will always occupy a prominent, place. The innkeeper, also, was a bailee, upon whom was placed an extraordinary liability as bailee, and also a legal command to serve all who come. These
12a. See Wyrnan, Public Service Corporations for extended treatment of this subject; also, Corporations, in this series.
two types of business we note here because they are bailees. The other public service businesses - the telegraph, the telephone, are not bailees, and belong to a subject treated elsewhere. The warehouseman has become largely subject to modern public utility laws, but as a bailee he is "ordinary" and subject to the rules heretofore discussed.
Innkeepers are those who make it their business to entertain travellers with board and lodging for hire.
An inn is a house which is held out to the public as a place where all transient persons who come will be received and entertained as guests for compensation.13 A lodging house is not an inn; nor is a restaurant.
The innkeeper must receive all who come, and who are willing to pay his reasonable charges, so long as his accommodations remain.
The innkeeper is held to an extraordinary responsibility ; but the cases differ as to the extent. Under some he is an insurer of the goods of the guest,14 except for loss by Act of God and the public enemy; but other views do not hold him to so onerous an undertaking; although in all cases he must use extreme care. Modern statutes permit him by notice given in a specified way to require the deposit of valuables with him for safe keeping in order to render him responsible. Under these statutes the guest may retain possession of the usual paraphernalia of a traveller.
13. Fay v. Pacific Improvement Co., 93 Cal. 253, 16 L. R. A. 188.
14. De Wolf v. Ford, 193 N. Y. 396, 86 N. E. 527, 21 L. R. A. N. S. 860; Gile v. Libby, 36 Barb. (N. Y.) 70.
The innkeeper has a lien upon the goods of his guest for his reasonable charges.15
A common carrier may be defined as a person who holds himself out to transport goods or persons or both, for hire, from one place to another.16
Carriers are of either private or public. A private carrier is a bailee whose rights and obligations are those of an ordinary bailee heretofore considered. If a carrier undertakes to serve those who come to hire him he is a public carrier, and the law imposes upon him the character of a public servant. Carriers as we know them today are generally incorporated companies; and besides being a public calling, which in itself imposes on them duties to deal indiscriminately with all who come, at reasonable prices, may have also important public franchises, as the right to lay tracks in the street and to exercise the power of eminent domain.
Carriers may undertake to carry goods or passengers, and may limit themselves to the carriage of classes of goods such as small packages.16a
The common carrier must serve all who come for the kind of service that it purports to give.
A common carrier may limit itself to a certain territory, and a common carrier of goods may confine itself
15. Robins & Co. v. Gray, L. R. (1895) 2 Q. B. D. 501.
16. Dwight v. Brewster, 1 Pick. (Mass.) 50, 11 Amer. Dec. 133; Liverpool Steam Co. v. Phenix Co., 129 U. S. 397 at p. 440.
16a. This would not be true of a railroad or any carrier operating under a franchise requiring a general carriage business.
to certain classes of goods. But all customers are entitled to equal service so long as the facilities are not exhausted.17 Neither can it discriminate in rates. The Interstate Commerce Act with its amendments from time to time has been largely concerned with this question of enforcing indiscriminate service at reasonable rates.