Bailment (Fr. lailler, to deliver), in law, the delivery of a thing upon some trust, express or implied, usually the redelivery of the thing itself or its equivalent, or some disposition of it according to the direction of the bailor. The different kinds of bailment are: 1, a deposit for sale keeping; 2, lending or hiring for use of bailee; 3, a pledge or pawn as security for something done or to be done by pawnee; 4, delivery of a thing for the purpose of having work done upon it, or of being carried to some place designated. When the bailment is exclusively for the use of the bailee, as where a thing is borrowed for use by bailee, the strictest degree of care is required. If the trust is to keep the thing bailed or to do something in respect to it for the benefit of bailor without compensation, ordinary care, such as a man bestows upon his own property, is all that is required; and if he is habitually careless about his own affairs, he is not bound to do more for another than he does for himself. If the trust is for mutual benefit, as when goods are to be kept or something done respecting them for a reward, ordinary diligence is to be exercised, such as prudent and careful men would give to their own affairs.
In respect to two classes of bailments, the rule of law is peculiar, viz., the cases of innkeepers and common carriers; both of whom are made responsible absolutely for the goods intrusted to them, except against inevitable accident called the act of God, and against the act of the public enemy. It is not sufficient that they use the utmost care; they are held to be insurers of the safety of the goods except as above specified. The innkeeper therefore is answerable for the property of his guest, even if lost by theft or burglary; and a carrier for the goods in his charge, against every casualty except loss by lightning or tempest, and he is not exonerated in case of destruction by fire, in which last particular the rule is even more severe than it is in respect to the innkeeper. The English law of bailment was quite imperfect until the time of Lord Holt, who resorted to the civil law to supply the deficiency then existing in the adjudged cases. His classification, as given in Coggs v. Bernard, Lord Raymond's Reports, 909, is famous. Sir William Jones was the first English writer who treated of this subject at length; but he had been anticipated in France by Po-thier, whose work on "Obligations" is now an acknowledged authority in English and American law.
The American treatises of Justice Story and Mr. Edwards give the results of the more recent cases.