Liability of Wharfingers, Fleeters, and Bailees

The rules governing the liability of wharfingers, fleeters, and bailees date back to the late nineteenth century. This Article details the various legal duties and standards of care imposed on wharfingers, fleeters, and bailees. Specifically, the Article discusses a wharfinger's duty to provide a safe berth, a fleeter's duty to adequately moor, and the presumptions, inferences, and burdens of proof which govern actions brought against wharfingers, fleeters, or bailees. The Article then turns to specific defenses to liability. If a bailee's control over the damaged property is not exclusive or if the accident occurred due to an act of God, liability may not be imposed. The Article next discusses the role of custom and practice (and specifically the warranty of workmanlike performance) in determining the contractual obligations of wharfingers and fleeters. Finally, the Article discusses the rules governing a wharfinger's liability for personal injury and death and places particular emphasis on the government regulations that set the standard of care for wharfingers.