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not surprising, therefore, that the courts permitted bailors to sue in case. The innovation would seem to have come in as early as 1449.[1] The plaintiff counted that he delivered to the defendant nine sacks of wool to keep; that the defendant, for six shillings paid him by the plaintiff, assumed to keep them safely, and that for default of keeping they were taken and carried away. It was objected that detinue, and not case, was the remedy. One of the judges was of that opinion, but in the end the defendant abandoned his objection; and Statham adds this note: …“et credo the reason of the action lying is because the defendant had six shillings which he [plaintiff] could not recover in detinue.” The bailor’s right to sue in case instead of detinue was recognized by implication in 1472,[2] and was expressly stated a few years later.[3]

The action against a bailee for negligent custody was looked upon, like the action against the surgeon or carpenter for active misconduct, as a tort, and not as a contract The immediate cause of the injury in the case of the bailee was, it is true, a nonfeasance, and not, as in the case of the surgeon or carpenter, a misfeasance. And yet, if regard be had to the whole transaction, it is seen that there is more than a simple breach of promise by the bailee. He is truly an actor. He takes the goods of the bailor into his custody. This act of taking possession of the goods, his assumpsit to keep them safely, and their subsequent loss by his default, together made up the tort. The action against the bailee sounding in tort, consideration was no more an essential part of the count than it was in actions against a surgeon. Early in the reign of Henry Ⅷ., Moore, Sergeant, said, without contradiction, that a bailee, with or without reward, was liable for careless loss of goods either in detinue or case;[4] and it is common learning that a gratuitous bailee was charged for negligence in the celebrated case of Coggs v. Bernard. If there was, in truth, a consideration for the bailee’s undertaking, the bailor might, of course, declare in contract, after special assumpsit was an established form of action. But, in fact, there are few instances of such declarations before the reign of Charles Ⅰ. Even since that time, indeed, case

has continued to be a frequent, if not the more frequent, mode of


  1. Statham Ab. Act. on Case (27 H. VI.).
  2. Y.B. 12 Ed. IV. 13, pl. 10.
  3. Y.B. 2 H. VII. 11, pl. 9; Keilw. 77, pl. 25; Keilw. 160, pl. 2; Y.B. 27 H. VIII. 25, pl. 3.
  4. Keilw. 160, pl. 2 (1510).