Legalese — What is a bailment and what does it have to do with parking?

carsThe other day, I parked my car in a parking deck. When I pulled in, I stopped at the little machine thingie and took my ticket, as is standard procedure when entering a parking deck.  It was a Sunday, and so there was no charge to park in the parking deck.  “Why do you have to take the ticket if you don’t have to pay?” asked my son.  It was a question I’d never thought about before. I’d always just mindlessly taken the ticket and then thrown it out because I didn’t need it later.

I looked at the ticket.  On the back there was some lawyer-driven fine print that said that I was responsible for any objects left in the car, and there was no bailment created.

What, I’m presuming you are going to ask, is a bailment?

A bailment is “a delivery of goods or property upon a contract, express or implied, to carry out the execution of a special object beneficial either to the bailor or bailee or both and to dispose of the property in conformity with the purpose of the trust.” O.C.G.A. 44-12-40. In English, that means that you are giving your stuff to someone else to hold and do something with. 

If you are the bailee, that is, the person to whom the property is given, you have a responsibility to keep the property safe. You have to exercise “due diligence and care” to ensure the safety of the property that was left with you.

So, in the case of a parking deck, it would be reasonable to think that you have a bailment situation. I am giving the owners of the parking deck my car, asking them, in effect, to store it while I go about my business in that neighborhood.  A bailment, even though it is a contract, may be “express or implied.” This means that they can come right out and say they’ll keep it safe for me, or it can just be implied by the circumstances that they will.  The parking ticket, however, makes it clear that while they may let me store my car on their property, they are refusing to accept the responsibility of keeping the car and its content safe.

And that is why I have to take the ticket even though I don’t have to pay. They want to make sure that I have taken in my hot little hands their express statement that there is no bailment, express or implied. They won’t let me in unless I take constructive notice of this fact.  Whether or not I – or much of anyone – actually reads it is unimportant. They said their piece and delivered that fact literally into my hands.

So, if you park your car in the parking deck, and someone smashes the window and takes your phone charger, you can’t sue the parking deck owners because they have not breached a duty to keep your car free from harm.

Still, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. It’s better than a parking ticket.

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only. No lawyer can advise you about your situation without knowing the particular details of your case.

About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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