BAILEE FOR HIRE RESPONSIBLE FOR A CAR STOLEN OR DAMAGED
When you hire a mechanic to work on your vehicle, and you leave the vehicle in the mechanic’s possession, the mechanic is responsible for the care and custody of the vehicle. As someone entrusted with someone else’s property, the mechanic has become what is legally known as a bailee in possession of property.
Who is a bailee?
A bailee is an individual who temporarily gains possession (but not ownership) of property. The “bailor” remains the owner of the property, while the bailee s responsible for the property’s safekeeping. The bailee is not allowed to use the property for personal reasons.
Under Indiana law, “the duty of the bailee is to return the goods on the accomplishment of the purpose or the expiration of the time period. In the case of failure to do so, he shall be liable for the loss, destruction, deterioration, damages, or destruction of goods, even without negligence.”
While today we are focusing on care repair shops, bailees might include:
- coat check attendances
- valet services
- banks (safety deposit boxes)
- dry cleaners
- property managers
What if the bailor never returns to claim the property?
If the bailment period has passed and the bailor has made no attempt to claim the property, the bailee should make every attempt to ensure the property is returned. But once all reasonable attempts have failed, the property may be considered abandoned.
What happens when a property is damaged or stolen while under a bailee’s care?
When a customer’s vehicle is stolen or damaged while in the repairer’s possession, Findlaw.com explains, the repairer must show that he took reasonable care of the customer’s vehicle. Otherwise, liability for any loss caused will be the responsibility of the garage.
If the customer were to take legal action against the bailee (in this case the car repair facility), it would be up to the repairer to show that the damage was entirely accidental and could not have been avoided by taking reasonable care.
Whose insurance policy covers the damage or loss of a vehicle while under a bailee’s care?
If the bailee is in the business of storing, parking, servicing, or repairing vehicles (it was not just a next-door neighbor who offered to “keep an eye” on a car), it is the bailee’s insurance that must cover the damages. Only if and when the limits of all motor vehicle insurance coverage available to the bailee have been exhausted might the car owner’s insurance pay benefits.
Most claims for car repair issues are handled in small claims court. However, if because of a repair shop’s negligence, you were personally injured because your car malfunctioned, Ramey & Hailey attorneys can help.