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The liability of transportation carriers for loss of, damage to, and/or delay of freight shipments is fixed by basic principles that are nearly as old as human civilization.
Indeed, the underpinnings of those principles date all the way back to times from which no written records survive. From the instant human society gave recognition to the concept of "chattel goods"--the legal term for one's possessions--it also had to face up to the complexities deriving from the fact that those chattel goods won't always be in the physical custody of their owner. That is, what happens if the goods should be lost or suffer injury when they are (temporarily) in another person's hands?
Over millennia the standards for resolving this question were refined into what has become known as the "law of bailments." In law, a bailment is "the relation created through the transfer of the possession of goods or chattels, by a person called the bailor to a person called the bailee, without a transfer of ownership, for the accomplishment of a certain purpose, whereupon the goods or chattels are to be dealt with according to the instructions of the bailor." In simpler (non-legal) terms, a "bailment" exists when one person has in his or her possession property that belongs to (is the "chattel goods" of) somebody else.