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Bailments Summarized By Injury Attorney

 This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Bailments and the topic of personal injury.  For more information on bailments see the page on Wikipedia.



See Va. Code § 8.7-204 (UCC) indicating that warehouseman is liable for damages for loss of, or injury to, goods caused by his failure to exercise such care in regard to them as reasonably careful man would exercise under like circumstances, but unless otherwise agreed, he is not liable for damages that could not have been avoided by exercise of such care.


1990 Volvo Mite Truck Corp. v. Vineyard, 239 Va. 87, 387 S.E.2d 763.

In negligence claim, if bailor proves property delivered in good condition and returned damaged in way that does not usually occur by exercise of proper care, there arises presumption that bailee was negligent. In contract action, plaintiff has burden of showing bailment contract and bailee’s failure to perform by not returning vehicle in undamaged condition. If bailee defends by asserting that property damaged without negligence on his part, bailee has burden of proving his own freedom from negligence. In this case, tort action and contract action tried together. Evidence was conflicting as to when vehicle was damaged; therefore, jury issue presented.

1983 Morris v. Hamilton, 225 Va. 372, 302 S.E.2d 51.

While at party, Hamilton left her watch on kitchen counter. Morris picked up watch so as to return it to Hamilton. She was unable to find Hamilton and did not recall where she had placed watch in home. Both parties were guests at party in that home. In order to establish bailments there must be delivery by bailor and acceptance by bailee. It is element of lawful possession, however created, and duty to account for thing as property of another that creates bailment. In this case, Morris was found to be gratuitous bailee and, as such, owed only duty of slight care. Hamilton’s case did not establish gross negligence, and, therefore, verdict was entered for defendant.

1979 “Automatic” Sprinkler Corp. v. Coley & Peterson, Inc., 219 Va. 781, 250 S.E.2d 765.

Water pipes in Roanoke civic center burst before construction was completed. Subcontractors had standing to sue for damages occurring before their work had been through final inspection and accepted. Until such time, they were responsible for care and protection of their work.

1977 K-B Corp. v. Gallagher, 218 Va. 381, 237 S.E.2d 183.

It is lawful possession of property and duty to account for it as property of another that creates bailments. Elements of possession are: (1) independent and exclusive possession; and (2) intent to exercise control. No bailment in present case since defendant did not have exclusive control.

1970 Haynes v. Bekins Van & Storage Co., 211 Va. 231, 176 S.E.2d 342.

Plaintiff delivered goods to defendant for storage and defendant failed to return all goods. Plaintiff sued on breach of contract theory. Recovery by plaintiff.

1967 Canty v. Wyatt Storage Corp., 208 Va. 161, 156 S.E.2d 582.

Where bailor sues in contract, he makes out prima facie case when he shows delivery and failure to return on demand or as otherwise agreed. Burden of going forward then shifts to defendant to establish loss or destruction of goods not due to his negligence. When bailor sues in negligence, then he has burden of proof as to negligence. Reference to commercial code.

1965 Crandall v. Woodard, 206 Va. 321, 143 S.E.2d 923.

Plaintiff had bid at auction on piece of machinery, but had not made payment and never acquired title or right to possession. As such, he could not sue for destruction of property. No bailments or bailment contract can come into existence until title or possession thereof has been acquired by bailor. This case is exception to general rule that in bailments bailee is estopped to deny title of bailor.

1965 Smith v. Mooers, 206 Va. 307, 142 S.E.2d 473.

Plaintiff took used car out for road test and tire blew out. Plaintiff argued that bailment existed. That question was not resolved.

1954 Petrus v. Robbins, 196 Va. 322, 83 S.E.2d 408.

Bailee in possession may sue for and recover judgment for wrongful damage or destruction by another of bailed property. This applies to gratuitous bailees as well as bailees for hire.

1952 Miller v. Tomlinson, 194 Va. 367, 73 S.E.2d 378.

In bailments where plaintiff sues on contract theory, then he makes out prima face case when he shows delivery of article and bailee’s failure to return it on demand or as agreed upon. Bailee may escape liability by showing absence of fault on his part.

1951 Glenn v. Haynes, 192 Va. 574, 66 S.E.2d 509.

Where plaintiff established her title and right to property, its delivery to defendant for her account and defendant’s failure to return it on demand, plaintiff made out prima facie case.

1951 Revenue Aero Club v. Alexandria Airport, 192 Va. 231, 64 S.E.2d 671.

In bailments, there are alternative theories of recovery: contract or tort. Under contract theory, bailor makes out prima facie case when he shows delivery of article to bailee and latter’s failure to return it on demand or as agreed upon. In this situation, bailee may escape liability by showing that his failure to redeliver was because property was lost or destroyed without his fault, but this is affirmative defense which he must prove. Where bailor alleges or proves that loss of property while in custody of bailee has been caused by means that would ordinarily seem to be unavoidable, burden still remains on bailor to prove negligence by preponderance of evidence. There is no burden of going forward imposed on bailee to show absence of negligence.

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Bailments Summarized By Injury Attorney

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