CARRIER, a general term for any person who conveys the goods of another for hire, more specifically applied to the tradesmen, now largely superseded by the railway system, who convey goods in carts or wagons on the public roads. In jurisprudence, however, the term is collectively applied to all conveyers of property, whether by land or water; and in this sense the changes and enlargements of the system of transit throughout the world have given additional importance to the subject. The law by which carriers, both by land and sea, are made responsible for the goods entrusted to them, is founded on the praetorian edict of the civil law, to which the ninth title of the fourth book of the Pandect is devoted. The edict itself is contained in these few words, "nautae, caupones, stabularii, quod cujusque salvum fore receperint, nisi restituent, in eos judicium dabo." The simplicity of the rule so announced has had a most beneficial influence on the commerce of the world. Throughout the great civilized region which took its law directly from Rome, and through the other less civilized countries which followed the same commercial code, it laid a foundation for the principle that the carrier's engagement to the public is a contract of indemnity. It bound him in the general case, to deliver what he had been entrusted with, or its value, - thus sweeping away all secondary questions or discussions as to the conditions of mere or less culpability on his part under which loss or damage may have occurred; and it left any limitations of this general responsibility to be separately adjusted by special contract.
The law of England recognizes a distinction between a common and a private carrier. The former is one who holds himself out to the public as ready to carry for hire from place to place the goods of such persons as choose to employ him. The owner of a stagecoach, a railway company, the master of a general ship, a wharfinger carrying goods on his own lighters are common carriers; and it makes no difference that one of the termini of the journey is out of England. It has been held, however, that a person who carries only passengers is not a common carrier; nor of course is a person who merely engages to carry the goods of particular individuals or to carry goods upon any particular occasion. A common carrier is subject at law to peculiar liabilities. He is bound to carry the goods of any person who offers to pay his hire, unless there is a good reason to the contrary, as, for example, when his carriage is full, or the article is not such as he is in the habit of conveying. He ought to carry the goods in the usual course without unnecessary deviation or delay. To make him liable there must be a due delivery of the goods to him in the known course of his business. His charge must be reasonable; and he must not give undue preference to any customer or class of customers. The latter principle, as enforced by statute, has come to be of great importance in the law of railway companies. In respect of goods entrusted to him, the carrier's liability, unless limited by a special contract, is, as already stated, that of an insurer. There is no question of negligence as in the case of injury to passengers, for the warranty is simply to carry safely and securely. The law, however, excepts losses or injuries occasioned immediately "by the act of God or the king's enemies" - words which have long had a strict technical signification. It would appear that concealment without fraud, on the part of the customer, will relieve the carrier from his liability for negligence, but not for actual misfeasance. Fraud or deceit by the customer (e.g., in misrepresenting the real value of the goods) will relieve the carrier from his liability. The responsibility of the carrier ceases only with the delivery of the goods to the proper consignee. By the Carriers' Act 1830 the liability of carriers for gold, silver, etc. (in general "articles of great value in small compass") is determined. Should the article or parcel exceed £10 in value, the carrier is not to be liable for loss unless such value is declared by the customer and the carrier's increased charge paid. Where the value is thus declared, the carrier may, by public notice, demand an increased charge, for which he must, if required, sign a receipt. Failing such receipt or notice, the carrier must refund the increased charge and remain liable as at common law. Except as above no mere notice or declaration shall affect a carrier's liability; but he may make special contracts with his customers. The carriage of goods by sea is subject to special regulations (see Affreightment). The carriage of goods by railway and canal is subject to the law of common carrier, except where varied by particular statutes, as the Railway and Canal Traffic Acts 1854 to 1894 and the Regulation of Railways Acts 1840 to 1893. The effect of these acts is to prevent railway companies as common carriers from limiting by special contract their liability to receive, forward and deliver goods, unless the conditions embodied in the special contract are reasonable, and the contract is in writing and signed by, or on behalf of, the sender. A railway company must provide reasonable facilities for forwarding passengers' luggage; where luggage is taken into the carriage with a passenger, the company is responsible for it only in so far as loss or damage is due to the passenger's interference with the company's exclusive control of it. As carriers of passengers companies are bound, in the absence of any special contract, to exercise due care and diligence, and are responsible for personal injuries only when they have been occasioned by negligence or want of skill. Where there has been contributory negligence on the part of the passenger, i.e. where he might, by the exercise of ordinary care, have avoided the consequences of the defendants' negligence - he is not entitled to recover. By the act of 1846 (commonly called Lord Campbell's Act), when a person's death has been caused by such negligence as would have entitled him to an action had he survived, an action may be maintained against the party responsible for the negligence on behalf of the wife, husband, parent or child of the deceased. Previously such cases had been governed by the maxim actio personalis moritur cum persona.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)