Public policy imposes upon an innkeeper a heavy responsibility. (See Bailment.) He is liable as an insurer of the property of his guests within his charge, against everything but the act of God or the public enemy, or the negligence or fraud of the owner of the property. He would therefore be liable for a loss caused by his own servants, by other guests, by robbery within or from without the house, burglary, riots, or mobs; for a mob is not a public enemy in this sense. It is however a good defence to the innkeeper, that his guest's loss was caused by the guest's servant or company, or by his negligence of any kind; or that the property was never in charge of the innkeeper because the guest had retained it in his own possession and under his own control. This last defence, however, is not made out by merely showing that the guest received and accepted a key of the room or of a closet, or that he exercised some preference and gave some directions as to where the property should be placed. But still an innkeeper may protect himself by requiring reasonable precautions from the guest.
Thus, if he appoint a certain place of deposit for certain goods, as a safe for money or jewelry, with notice to his guests that he will not be responsible for their property of this kind if not put there, and a guest disregard this, the innkeeper is exonerated. But no especial delivery of the goods to the innkeeper is necessary to charge him, if they are in his custody in the usual manner. It is also held that he cannot refuse to receive a guest without good cause, as that his house is full, or that the guest is disorderly, or has infectious disease, or disreputable habits or appearance. On the other hand, a guest has no right to select and insist upon a particular apartment, or put it to other purposes than those for which it was designed. - An innkeeper is of course liable like any other person for any loss or injury caused by his own default or negligence; and so a boarding-house keeper is liable to this extent. But an innkeeper is liable for the loss of or injury to property of a guest, without the innkeeper's own default of any kind. So, if he receive the horse and carriage of a guest, and put them under an open shed, away from his premises, or leave them in the open road, because he is crowded, and is accustomed to put them there when crowded, he is still liable for them as insurer.
On the other hand, and perhaps as some compensation for these stringent liabilities, an innkeeper has a lien on the goods of his guest, for his charges against the guest; and he even has this lien on a horse or carriage, or other property stolen and brought to him by the thief. He has no lien on the person of the guest; and certainly none on the clothing actually at the time on his person. But the innkeeper's lien probably reaches all other property of the guest, and extends so far as to cover the whole amount due by the guest, for himself, his servants, or his animals. But where a person visits an inn by special invitation as a friend, or by general invitation as one of many, or as one of the public, on a certain day, without paying or being expected to pay anything, it has been held that the innkeeper is liable to the visitor only for losses or injuries caused by the innkeeper's own default or neglect.