Hiring ,.One may hire a person or a thing, and the thing hired may be real estate or personal chattels. For the law of luring real estate, see Lease. In this article we shall treat only of the hiring of persons, and of the hiring of chattels. In England the relation of master and servant is peculiar, and is perfectly recognized both by custom and by law, and it is governed by principles which apply to no other relation. In the United States it is simply one of contract - so much work for so much wages; and it is governed by the ordinary rules of the law of contract. If the servant is disobedient or negligent, it may be a good ground for withholding wages, or for discharge, according to circumstances; and if he docs any injury he is responsible in damages; and this is all. If a servant contracts to labor for a definite period, and leaves the service without excuse before that period has elapsed, it is held in a majority of the states that he can recover nothing; but in some, following a New Hampshire decision, it is decided that he may recover what his services actually performed are worth, not exceeding the contract price, but subject to a deduction of all damages sustained by the master for the breach of contract. This rule would seem to work justice to both parties.
If, however, the servant leaves because of ill treatment, or is driven away, or is sick, or has any good cause for leaving, he may under all the cases recover wages for the time he has served. On the other hand, a servant who is hired for a certain term, and is turned away before the time is up, without good cause, may tender his service for the whole period, and keep himself ready to render it, and can then recover for the whole period. The question how far a master is responsible for the acts of his servant will be considered, with some connected questions, under the title Servant. - We will now pass to the hiring of a chattel. In one sense a ship is a chattel; but the hiring of a ship will be treated under Shipping. The contract of hiring a chattel is for the mutual benefit of the owner and the hirer; the hirer is therefore bound, not to extreme care, but to ordinary care, which is defined as that care which a man of ordinary capacity would take of his own property under ordinary circumstances; and he is responsible for any injury caused by a want of such care. This obligation varies with the thing hired; it is one degree of care with a costly watch or jewel, or a valuable horse, and another with coarser and cheaper things.
The hirer is, in general, as responsible for the negligence of his servants about the thing hired as for his own. Whether he would be responsible for a wilful injury by his servant would depend somewhat on circumstances, and may not be certain from the authorities; but we should say, in general, that he would not be so responsible. It may be said that he is not responsible for injury caused by the theft, robbery, or violence of others, unless his own negligence or default caused or facilitated the wrong. If he sells the chattel or gives it away, he can pass no title, and the owner may demand and take it from the receiver or from any buyer, even if ho bought in honest ignorance of the owner's title, and paid full price for it. The obligations of the owner of a thing hired may be stated thus: he must deliver it in good condition for the intended and agreed or customary use, and keep it in good order, or pay the hirer his reasonable expense for so keeping it, as for example a carriage and horses hired for a journey; he must not interfere with the hirer's lawful and reasonable use of it; but if the hirer makes of it a use which he has no right to make, the owner may peaceably repossess himself of it, or have his appropriate action; and if the hirer refuses it, the owner may recover damages, although he repossess himself of the thing.
The right and obligations of the hirer may be thus stated: he may use it in the intended and agreed or customary way, and must not use it in any other way; he must not abuse or injure it in any way, must surrender it at the time agreed upon, or if no time be agreed on, then whenever, within a reasonable time, it is demanded by the owner; and he is bound to pay the agreed price, or, if none was agreed, a customary and reasonable price. Nearly all, or indeed all, these particulars are open to the agreement of the parties, if they choose to provide expressly for them.