Warebouseman, in law, one who receives goods of any kind for the mere purpose of storage. He is a bailee, and, his contract with the owner being one for their mutual benefit, is held only to ordinary care and diligence; and if loss or injury happen to the goods, he is not responsible without the absence of this care or diligence on his part, unless he expressly assumes a greater responsibility. There is nothing, however, to prevent warehousemen from receiving goods on any terms or contract they see fit to make with the owner. Persons may become warehousemen, and subject only to the law of that relation, whose general position is quite different. Forwarding merchants in the United States are generally regarded as warehousemen, unless they take upon themselves the duty and the responsibility of common carriers, which they do when they begin to act in that character. As regards those whose business is that of common carriers, as railroad companies or expressmen, many questions remain to be settled. If they receive goods to be carried at some future time when direction to that effect shall be given by the owner, they are in the mean time to be regarded as warehousemen only; but if they receive them to be sent forward immediately, they are at once under the responsibility of common carriers.
On the other hand, if they have transported goods to their place of destination and hold them for delivery when called for, some courts hold that they are now in law only warehousemen, while others hold that their responsibility as carriers continues until the consignee has been notified and has had reasonable time and opportunity to take the goods away. The question has often become of great practical importance where railroad warehouses have been accidentally destroyed. If the carrier is himself to deliver the goods, his responsibility as such continues until delivery. A warehouseman has a lien on goods in his care for their storage, but not for the storage of other goods, or for any general balance of accounts.