Is a Storage Facility Liable if My Property is Stolen from Their Premises?

Full Question:

my boat trailer was stolen from a marine storage facility. There is a area with signs saying private property, in which the marina store trailers of people who owe them money. I was forbiden entry to see if my trailer may have been placed there my mistake. From the road there was one visable that could be mine. Does the marina have any liablity for the missing trailer that I paid money for them to store.
08/16/2010   |   Category: Storage   |   State: Ohio   |   #22922

Answer:

The answer will depend on all the facts and circumstances involved, such as the security measures in place and whether the facility used ordinary care in storing the trailer. Typically, one is not responsible for the criminal acts of another, but if there was a lapse in care in storing the boat that contributed to the theft, it may be possible they are liable. It will be a matter of subjective determination for the court, taking all factors into account.

When a person who is not a landlord agrees to hold property for another, a bailment is created.

There are different types of bailments- "bailments for hire" in which the custodian (bailee) is paid, "constructive bailment" when the circumstances create an obligation upon the custodian to protect the goods, and "gratuitous bailment" in which there is no payment, but the bailee is still responsible. There is a lower standard of care imposed upon the bailee in a gratuitous bailment, and the parties may contract to hold the bailee free from liability in any bailment. As the law of bailments establishes a lower standard of care for the bailee in a gratuitous bailment agreement, such an agreement or receipt should indicate explicitly that the bailee is acting without compensation. When a bailment is for the exclusive benefit of the bailee, the bailee owes a duty of extraordinary care. If the bailment is for the mutual benefit of the bailee and bailor, the bailee owes a duty of ordinary care. A gratuitous bailee must use only slight care and is liable only for gross negligence. To create a bailment, the alleged bailee must have actual physical control with the intent to possess. Physical control and intent to possess will be interpreted according to the expectations of the parties. If a court thinks that liability would be unexpected or unfair, it can usually find that the defendant did not have “physical control” or “intent to possess.” For example, courts are more likely to find a bailment of a car exists in a garage with an attendant than in a park and lock garage.