South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Car Wash Responsible as Bailee of Car Being Washed, But Not of Jewels Left in Car
Description Alabama high court held that when a jewelry salesman's car was stolen from a car wash while it was being dried, and a large amount of jewelry was stolen from the trunk, the car wash was responsible for the car, as a bailment for its care was created, but was not responsible for the jewelry.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Personal Property; Bailment; Theft
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Smith worked as a sales rep for Ziva Jewelry. He carried jewelry in the trunk of his car as he called on clients. He had his car washed at a service that took possession of the car to put it through the car wash "tunnel" and then dried it. Smith watched the car the entire time. While it was being dried, someone jumped in the car and took off in it. It was recovered 15 minutes later, less jewelry worth $852,000 that was in the trunk. Ziva sued the car wash company, CWH, contending that it took possession of the vehicle as bailee and failed to exercise due care to return the bailed vehicle and its contents. The trial court held for CWH; Ziva appealed.

Affirmed. Bailment is the delivery of personal property by one person to another for a specific purpose, with an express or implied contract that the trust will be faithfully executed and the property returned when the special purpose is accomplished or when the bailor reclaims the property. The vehicle was subject to bailment when Smith handed the car over to CWH employees to wash it. However, a bailor-bailee relationship was not created with respect to the jewelry and CWH owed no special duty of care to prevent theft by a third party. CWH did not have knowledge of the jewelry and so did not agree to accept responsibility for it.

Citation Ziva Jewelry v. Car Wash Headquarters, --- So.2d --- (2004 WL 2090129, Sup. Ct., Ala., 2004)

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