1. Under the evidence in this case the property considered in this division of the opinion had ceased to be bailed property and had become the property of the former bailee.
2. (a) In the absence of clear contractual provisions to the contrary, a bailee in a mutual benefit bailment is not an insurer of bailed property. Liability attaching to this type bailee must be predicated on the bailee's negligence or on some fault such as breach of contract which the law does not allow.
(b) (1) The possession by the defendant of the property considered in this division of the opinion constituted a bailment for the mutual benefit of the parties.
(2) The diligence required of the bailee in this type of bailment in protecting the property is ordinary care.
(3) A bailee who exercises the proper degree of care and diligence in protecting and keeping safely the thing bailed is relieved from any liability for its loss or destruction.
(4) Ordinarily all questions of diligence and negligence are questions of fact for determination by the jury.
Federal Express Money Order, Inc. sued Leslie M. Gillham, d/b/a Ben Hill Pharmacy in contract to recover $2,901.26. The plaintiff is in the business of furnishing drafts for the transfer of funds. These drafts in blank are distributed under contract to various places of business which in turn issue them to customers who purchase the drafts by paying the face amount plus the fees or charges which are set by the plaintiff. There was an agreement between plaintiff and defendant for the conducting of this type of transaction. The defendant remits the entire proceeds received by it to the plaintiff including the face values of the drafts plus all fees charged. The plaintiff returns to the defendant 40 percent of the total fees received as the latter's earnings under their agreement.
On Saturday, September 15, 1962, defendant made out a report showing the amount of $1,234.78 as being due the plaintiff for certain numbered drafts issued, and forwarded a check to plaintiff for that amount payable to plaintiff. On September 17, 1962, another report was filed showing the amount of $1,666.48 being due the plaintiff on other numbered drafts issued, but this report contained the notations "No money," "short," "robbery."
The evidence showed that the drugstore had been burglarized either Saturday or Sunday night and the safe in which valuables, including a wooden chest containing the money and fees for the sale of the drafts, had been blown open and the contents stolen.
The defendant stopped payment on the check transmitted to plaintiff on the Saturday report and refused to pay plaintiff the reported total of the sums collected of $2,901.26.
On the trial of the case the trial judge directed a verdict for the plaintiff. Exceptions are brought to the overruling of the defendant's motion for new trial on the general grounds and several special grounds.
All of the substantive rights of the parties in this case arose prior to the effective date of the Uniform Commercial Code.
The brief of evidence reveals that the total sum of $2,901.26 for which plaintiff sued is divisible necessarily into two well-defined categories. Each is governed by separate and distinct legal principles although collectively they arose out of the same cause of action--the alleged breach of contract. Consideration of each necessarily arises under the general grounds of the motion for new trial.
1. The first classification amounts to $1,234.78 and is controlled by the principle announced in McIntire v. Raskin, 173 Ga. 746, 748 (1) (161 SE 363). This sum is represented by a check which was not drawn on funds belonging to the defendant as drawer to pay or discharge a debt which the defendant owed the payee plaintiff, but was issued for the purpose of transmitting to the payee funds which belonged to it. These funds had been collected by the defendant and held by him for the plaintiff, the payee. While the check in this case was not certified and hence the drawee bank acted properly in honoring the drawer's stop payment order and incurred no liability for doing so, nevertheless as between the payee and the drawer, the evidence establishes conclusively that the drawer by issuing and delivering the check payable to plaintiff had ceased to treat the cash which he had collected on plaintiff's behalf as belonging to plaintiff, but had taken dominion of the cash represented by the check as his own. The plaintiff by accepting the check as evidenced by its endorsement ratified the exchange of the cash for the check. Thus the defendant was not a bailee of the cash represented by the check but was its owner.
The evidence therefore demanded that the plaintiff recover the sum of $1,234.78, the amount of the check.
2. The other facet of the case requires a determination as to whether the defendant was an insurer of the remaining portion of the funds sued for, i.e., $1,666.48. These funds were indisputably in the defendant's possession and belonged to the plaintiff. If held to be an insurer the direction of the verdict was proper; aliter if the defendant was not an insurer of the property.
(a) In absence of clear contractual provisions to the contrary, a bailee in a mutual benefit bailment is not an insurer of bailed property. Under the statutory and common law of this State, as interpreted by the courts, the diligence required of the bailee in this type bailment is ordinary care. Elliott v. Levy, 77 Ga. App. 562; Southeastern Air Services v. Edwards, 74 Ga. App. 582; Renfroe v. Fouche, 26 Ga. App. 340, infra.
Code 12-103. There is, however, a wide divergence in meaning between the words "responsible" and "insurer." As alone definitive in the bailment contract the word "responsible" superimposes no additional standards on the bailee's conduct above those the law itself places on that conduct. To create liability where the contractual word "responsibility" is alone definitive there must be negligence or some fault such as breach of contract which the law does not allow. Liability of an insurer is imposed without negligence or fault chargeable against the insurer and arises merely by a loss occurring within the contractual terms.
By the terms of the contract in this case the bailee was not an insurer of the bailed property.
App. 340 (1) (106 SE 303). Ordinarily all questions of diligence and negligence are questions of fact for determination by the jury. The evidence in this case was sufficient to have supported a jury finding that the defendant had fulfilled the duty imposed on him by law in caring for the property and that its loss was in no way due to his negligence.
The trial court erred in directing a verdict for the plaintiff for that portion of the funds amounting to $1,666.48.
3. The special grounds of the motion for new trial are all rendered immaterial by the rulings stated in Divisions 1 and 2 of this opinion, and none of the errors urged is likely to reoccur on any retrial of the case.
The judgment of the trial court overruling the motion for a new trial is reversed on the general grounds. Frankum and Holt, JJ., concur.