What is Bailment?

Legal Definition
Bailment describes a legal relationship in common law where physical possession of personal property, or a chattel, is transferred from one person (the "bailor") to another person (the "bailee") who subsequently has possession of the property. It arises when a person gives property to someone else for safekeeping, and is a cause of action independent of contract or tort.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
Contracts. This word is derived from the French, bailler, to deliver. 2 Bl. Com. 451; Jones' Bailm. 90 Story on Bailm. c. 1, §2. It is a compendious expression, to signify a contract resulting from delivery. It has been defined to be a delivery of goods on a condition, express or implied, that they shall be restored by the bailee to the bailor, or according to his directions, as soon as the purposes for which they are bailed shall be answered. 1 Jones' Bailm. 1. Or it is a delivery of goods in trust, on a contract either expressed or implied, that the trust shall be duly executed, and the goods redelivered, as soon as the time or use for which they were bailed shall have elapsed or be performed. Jones' Bailm. 117.

2. Each of these definitions, says Judge Story, seems redundant and inaccurate if it be the proper office of a definition to include those things only which belong to the genus or class. Both these definitions suppose that the goods are to be restored or redelivered; but in a bailment for sale, as upon a consignment to a factor, no redelivery is contemplated between the parties. In some cases, no use is contemplated by the bailee, in others, it is of the essence of the contract: in some cases time is material to terminAte the contract; in others, time is necessary to give a new accessorial right. Story, on Bailm. c. 1, §2.

3. Mr. Justice Blackstone has defined a bailment to be a delivery of goods in trust, upon contract, either expressed or implied, that the trust shall be faithfully executed on the part of the bailee. 2 Bl. Com. 451. And in another place, as the delivery of goods to another person for a particular use. 2 Bl. Com. 395. Vide Kent's Comm. Lect. 40, 437.

4. Mr. Justice Story says, that a bailment is a delivery of a thing in trust for some special object or purpose, and upon a contract, express or implied, to conform to the object or purpose of the trust. Story on Bailm. c. 1, §2. This corresponds very nearly with the definition of Merlin. Vide Repertoire, mot Bail.

5. Bailments are divisible into three kinds: 1. Those in which the trust is for the benefit of the bailor, as deposits and mandates. 2. Those in which the trust is for the benefit of the bailee, as gratuitous loans for use. 3. Those in which the trust is for the benefit of both parties, as pledges or pawns, and hiring and letting to hire. See Deposit; Hire; Loans; mandates and Pledges.

6. Sir William Jones has divided bailments into five sorts, namely: 1. Depositum, or deposit. 2. Mandatum, or commission without recompense. 3. Commodatum, or loan for use, without pay. 4. Pignori acceptum, or pawn. 5. Locatum, or hiring, which is always with reward. This last is subdivided into, 1. Locatio rei, or biring, by which the hirer gains a temporary use of the thing. 2. Locatio operis faciendi, when something is to be done to the thing delivered. 3. Locatio operis mercium vehendarum, when the thing is merely to be carried from one place to another. See these several words. As to the obligations and duties of bailees in general, see Diligence, and Story on Bailm. c. 1; Chit. on Cont. 141; 3 John. R. 170; 17 Mass. R. 479; 5 Day, 15; 1 Conn. Rep. 487; 10 Johns. R. 1, 471; 12 Johns. R. 144, 232; 11 Johns. R. 107; 15 Johns. R. 39; 2 John. C. R. 100; 2 Caines' Cas. 189; 19 Johns. R. 44; 14 John. R. 175; 2 Halst. 108; 2 South. 738; 2 Harr. & M'Hen. 453; 1 Rand. 3; 2 Hawks, 145; 1 Murphy, 417; 1 Hayw. 14; 1 Rep. Con. Ct. 121, 186; 2 Rep. Con. Ct. 239; 1 Bay, 101; 2 Nott & M'Cord, 88, 489; 1 Browne, 43, 176; 2 Binn. 72; 4 Binn. 127; 5 Binn. 457; 6 Binn. 129; 6 Serg. & Rawle, 439; 8 Serg. & Rawle, 500, 533; 14 Serg. & R. 275; Bac. Ab. h. t.; 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 978-1099.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
A delivery of goods or personal property, by one person to another, in trust for the execution of a special object upon or in relation to such goods, beneficial either to the bailor or bailee or both, and upon a contract, express or implied, to perform the trust and carry out such object, and thereupon either to redeliver the goods to the bailor or otherwise dispose of the same in conformity with the purpose of the trust. Watson v. State, 70 Ala. 13, 45 Am. Rep. 70; Com. v. Maher, 11 Phila. (Pat) 425; McCaffrey v. Knapp, 74 III. App. 80; Krause v. Com., 93 Pa. 418, 39 Am. Rep. 762 ; Fnicher v. State, 32 Tex. Cr. R. 621, 25 S. W. 625. See Code Ga. 1882, § 2058. A delivery of goods in trust upon a contract, expressed or implied, that the trust shall be faithfully executed on the part of the bailee. 2 Bl. Comm. 455. Bailment, from the French hailler, to deliver, is a delivery of goods for some purpose, upon a contract, express or implied, that, after the purpose has been fulfilled, they shall be redelivered to the bailor, or otherwise dealt with, according to his directions, or (as the case may be) kept till he reclaims them. 2 Steph. Comm. 80. A delivery of goods in trust upon a contract, expressed or implied, that the trust shall be duly executed, and the goods restored by the bailee as soon as the purposes of the bailment shall be answered. 2 Kent, Comm. 559. Bailment is a delivery of a thing in trust for some special objects or purpose, and upon a contract, express or implied, to conform to the object or purpose of the trust. Story, Bnilm. 3. A delivery of goods in trust on a contract, either expressed or implied, that the trust shall be duly executed, and the goods redelivered as soon as the time or use for which they were bailed shall have elapsed or be performed. Jones, Bailm. 117. Bailment is a word of French origin, significant of the curtailed transfer, the delivery or mere handing over, which is appropriate to the transaction. Schouler, Pers. Prop. 695. The test of a bailment is that the identical thing is to be returned; if another thing of equal value is to be returned, the transaction is a snie. Marsh v. Titus. 6 Thomp. & C. (N. Y.) 29; Sturm v. Boker, 150 U. S. 312, 14 Sup. Ct. 99, 37 L. Ed. 1093. Classification. Sir William Jones has divided bailments into five sorts, namely: Depositum, or deposit; mandatum, or commission without recompense; commodatum, or loan for use without pay; pignori acceptum, or pawn ; locatum, or hiring, which is always with rewardThis last is subdivid ed into locatio rei, or hiring, by which the hirer gains a temporary use of the thing; locatio operis faciendi, when something is to be done to the thing delivered; locatio operis mercium vehendarum, when the thing is merely to be carried from one place to another. Jones, Balim. 36. Lord Holt divided bailments thus:

(1) Depositum, or a naked bailment of goods, to be kept for the use of the bnilor.

(2) Commodatum. Where goods or chattela that are useful are lent to the bailee gratis, to be used by him.

(3) Locatio rei. Where goods are lent to the bailee to be used by him for hire.

(4) Vadium, Pawn or pledge.

(5) Locatio operis faciendi. Where goods are delivered to be carried, or something is to be done about them, for a reward to be paid to the bailee.

(6) Mandatum. A delivery of goods to somebody who is to carry them, or do something about them, gratis. 2 Ld. Raym. 909. Another division, suggested by Bouvier, is as follows: First, those bailments which are for the benefit of the bnilor, or of some person whom he represents; second, those for the benefit of the bailee, or some person represented by him; third, those which are for the benefit of both parties.
See also
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
The delivery or contract whereby goods are entrusted to another. See 136 Am. St. Rep. 214; also 7 L. R. A. 529.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
(French) A ship.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary