Clubs' Liability for Lost or Stolen Property
The problem of a member’s lost or stolen property is one which is, unfortunately, experienced by most Clubs at some time. Cases involving lost or stolen coats, umbrellas, snooker cues and other items are occasionally referred to the ACC.
The advice given depends on the actual circumstances of each individual case. Whatever circumstances are involved, the question of bailment applies. Bailment is the delivery of goods by one person, called the bailer, to another person, called the bailee. Halsbury’s Laws of England defines bailment as ‘a delivery of personal chattels in trust on a contract, express or implied, that the trust shall be duly executed and the chattels redelivered in either their original or an altered form, as soon as the time, or use for, or condition on which they were bailed, shall have elapsed or been performed.’
In most cases, members simply leave their personal belongings in the Club and return to find them missing. If a Club is to attract any liability for the lost or stolen property of a member or guest, then it would be as a gratuitous bailee, and for this purpose the person claiming a loss would have to show that there had been an actual delivery and acceptance of their property by the Club, before there could be any obligation on the Club as bailee.
The important factor would be that the Club actually accepted the property and became, in some degree, responsible for it whilst it remained on the Club premises. For example, if a Club merely provides the facilities of a coat rack and there is no employee of the Club who takes proper custody of garments left there, then a person who loses property would be unable to sustain a good claim against the Club for the loss.
During the nineteenth century, a case involving the subject of this article was heard. In this case, a man entered a restaurant to dine and, without being asked, a waiter helped him to take off his coat and hung it on a hook behind him whilst he was dining. The man got up to find that the coat had been stolen. The fact that the waiter took the coat is strong evidence that the restaurant became a bailee of the coat, and the man was successful in his claim.
There are, obviously, a number of distinguishing features between this reported case and the example of the Club providing a coat rack. Clubs are well advised to post a notice in the Club indicating that the Club accepts no responsibility for the loss of property of any member or any other persons on the Club premises.
A suitable notice would read- 'The Club accepts no responsibility for loss or damage to persons or property, however sustained, on the premises of the Club.’
If your Club experiences difficulties with claims for lost or stolen personal property, then please contact the ACC for advice and assistance.