How legitimate are those “management is not responsible for lost or stolen goods” signs? Do they themselves release the management from responsibility, or are they simply informing people of a legally established lack of responsibility? Basically, what are the laws regarding when an institution must or may not claim responsibility for a customer’s possessions? I saw such a reminder on my valet ticket at a hotel recently, and I very much disagree with it: A valet should certainly be held responsible for the state of my car when I entrust it to them, right?
Welcome to law, where everything is more complicated than you might expect. Let’s take this in layers, like an onion, or your aunt’s multi-layer mystery dip that starts looking kind of tasty after a few beers.
Layer 1: Words
We’re going to needs some very special new words: chattels and bailment.
A chattel is a piece of personal property—any tangible thing that is not real estate. A bailment is a special temporary relationship created when you transfer possession of a chattel to another person, like a car with a valet.
Read the rest of the column here at Deadspin.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.