Ferry, a place where persons, animals, or goods are carried across a river or other water; in law, a liberty or franchise so to transport persons or things. Such a franchise can exist in England only by grant from the king, or by a prescription which supposes a grant; and being granted and accepted, the grantee is indictable if he have not suitable means of transport. In the United States, ferries are created as well as regulated generally by statutes, although there may be ancient ferries resting on usage and prescription. The termini of the ferry are at the water's edge, and shift with that if it varies; but the owner has a right of way to and from the ferry. Ferrymen are common carriers, and have the rights and come under the obligations of common carriers. Thus, they may determine (within reasonable limits) when and how often, and upon what terms, their boats shall cross the water, and what they will transport; but all these things they must do by general rules, without favoritism or arbitrary exception. They are liable for all loss of or injury to property in their possession, unless it be caused by the act of God or of the public enemy.
This liability does not attach when persons or things are coming toward or going from their boats, but begins as soon as they are on the boat, or on the slip or flat, and continues while they are there. One who owns a ferry, and employs persons to do all the labor and the actual transport, is in law the ferryman, and liable accordingly. But if he leases the ferry, reserving only his rent, the lessee in possession, and not the owner, is the responsible ferryman; and this is true even if the rent reserved be a certain proportion of the receipts.