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What Is a Bailee?

A bailment occurs when possession of property is transferred from one party to another. This temporary transfer of possession does not entail transfer of ownership. Hence, the former who owns the property, the bailor, is still the legal owner of the property, while the physical possession of such property is merely transferred to another party. This party is referred to as a bailee.

This type of transfer of possession of property exists within common law dictates only and cannot be invoked by civil law. A bailee can only attain the possession of the property if the bailor intends to and is in actual, physical possession of the property. However, a bailment is unlike a lease or rental in that the bailee may not use the property despite possessing it.

A bailee is granted no actual rights by the bailor except that he or she is in actual, physical possession of the property. Thus, the bailee is not entitled to the property upon the default of the bailor. Nor is the bailee entitled to any kind of right or privilege to the property accorded to an owner. A bailor can regain possession of the property at any reasonable time he or she wishes to and does not require the consent or permission of the bailee.

A common example of a bailment is the use of valet parking. Possession of the car is temporarily given to the valet attendant, the bailee, in order to park at his or her discretion. The bailor, the owner of the car, has the right to access the car at any reasonable point in time.

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