Say I give you my gold watch to hold for two weeks while I go away on vacation.  (question continued below)     While I am away, your house is robbed, bombed, flooded. An event happens entirely outside the scope of your control. Are you liable to me under the theory of bailments? Personally, I think that it is RIDICULOUS to hold someone liable if s/he was not negligent in causing the damage.  The law, however, seems to differ.  The way I understand it is, in a bailment for mutual benefit, you are laible to the bailor no matter what happens.  Please clarify the situation if I am mistaken.   In answering this question, please state whether you are a lawyer or just commenting. Thank you for your time.  I sincerely appreciate your help.

Expert Answers

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In my opinion, the person who is holding your watch for you is not liable.  I am not a lawyer, but this is not a full legal case either, needing detailed analysis and a knowledge of the laws of a particular jurisdiction.  I have taught constitutional law at the college level so I have some idea about how to reason legally.

The reason that I think you are mistaken in your analysis is that the receiver is only required to use "reasonable care" to protect the property that is entrusted to him or her.  So unless the person who was holding your watch deliberately caused the flood somehow, they would not be liable.  As far as the burglary goes, perhaps if the person left your watch right in their window and the window was open...

West's Encyclopedia of Law, available through eNotes, says:

When a bailor receives the sole benefit from the bailment, the bailee has a lesser duty to care for the property and is financially responsible only if he or she has been grossly negligent or has acted in bad faith in taking care of the property.

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