Rizzuto v. Baltrush
A bailment relationship can be implied whenever the personal property of one individual is acquired by another and held in circumstances in which justice requires the recipient to keep the property safe and return it to the owner. Allegedly, a Probate Court appointed the plaintiff, AnnMarie Rizzutto, as the trustee of her brother's estate, because his location was unknown. Rizzutto's brother owned commercial property and a 1982 Ferrari. In June 2009, the brother's commercial property was sold. The Ferrari remained on the premises after the sale. The parties disputed whether the defendant buyer expressed interest in purchasing the Ferrari. In September, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the police and reported that the Ferrari was no longer on the premises. The plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant buyer breached a contract, converted the Ferrari or engaged in statutory theft. "[T]here was no credible evidence," wrote the court, "to support an express contractual agreement between the parties nor that the defendant actually took possession of the vehicle and disposed of it for his own benefit." The court found that an implied bailment existed that the vehicle would remain on the property in the defendant's care, until the plaintiff removed it. An inference existed that the defendant buyer had or could have exercised control of the Ferrari. The defendant failed to rebut the presumption that the vehicle was lost as a result of the defendant's negligence. "[T]he defendant," wrote the court, "failed to take reasonable and appropriate measures to secure the vehicle." The measure of damages when property held in bailment is lost or damaged is the value of the property at the time of the loss or damage. The court valued the Ferrari at $7,500 as of June 2009, and it awarded the plaintiff $7,500, plus $350 for an expert appraisal.