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Personal Property - Bailments

bailor bailee car ownership

A BAILMENT is the rightful, temporary possession of goods by an individual other than the true owner. The individual who entrusts his property into the hands of another is called the bailor; the person who holds such property is the bailee. Ordinarily a bailment is effected for a designated purpose upon which the parties have agreed.

The word bailment is derived from the French term bailler, "to deliver." It is ordinarily regarded as a contractual relationship since the bailor and bailee—either expressly or implicitly—bind themselves to act according to specific terms. The bailee receives only control or possession of the property, and the bailor retains the ownership interests therein. While a bailment exists, the bailee has an interest in the property that is superior to all others, including the bailor, unless she violates some term of the agreement. When the purpose for which the property has been delivered has been accomplished, the property will be returned to the bailor or otherwise disposed of, according to his instructions.

A bailment differs from a sale, which is an intentional transfer of ownership of personal property in exchange for something of value, because a bailment involves only a transfer of possession or custody not of ownership. For example, a bailment is created when a person leaves his or her car and car keys at a parking garage. The parking garage receives a fee to hold the car in its custody.

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