Gaudreau v. Belter
The Appellant, Mr. Belter, appeals a Provincial Court decision where he was found to be
negligent in caring for a set of golf clubs which he stored for the Respondent, Mr.
The two men were on a short golfing holiday. At the conclusion of the golf vacation Mr.
Belter was returning to his home in St. Albert, but Mr. Gaudreau was traveling to Calgary
to meet his family and continue on a family vacation. Mr. Gaudreau gave his golf clubs to
Mr. Belter, who agreed to store them until the Gaudreaus returned to the Edmonton area.
Mr. Belter stored the clubs in his garage. The garage was usually locked, but on one
occasion the garage door was left open and the clubs were stolen. Judge Allford
concluded that this was a gratuitous bailment, that Mr. Belter had inadvertently left the
garage door open overnight, and that leaving the garage door open was negligent. He
reviewed three Alberta decisions on bailment, the leading case, Carpenter v. Cargill
Grain Co. Ltd. and two cases which followed it, Luider v. Nguyen (c.o.b.)
Nanton Packers, and Dorico Investments Ltd. v. Weyerhauser Canada Ltd. and
concluded that the old categories of bailment were no longer relevant to establishing the
standard of care owed by bailees. He noted that while the old cases had held that a
gratuitous bailee would only be liable for gross negligence, the general trend in the more
recent cases has been to require a bailee to exercise the care that is reasonable in all the
circumstances, without making a distinction between gratuitous bailment and bailment
Counsel for Mr. Belter argues that the categories of bailment still exist, and that a bailee
is liable only for gross negligence in a gratuitous bailment, and that Judge Allford,
In Alberta, as noted by both parties, there have been only three relatively recent cases
dealing with bailment. In each of them, however, the trial judge either concluded that
there was no bailment or, if there was a bailment, that the bailment was for reward. Mr.
Belter’s counsel argues that Judge Allford and the courts in Luider and Dorico
misinterpreted Justice Purvis’ decision in Carpenter v. Cargill Grain Co. Ltd.. He notes
that the case only holds that the distinctions between categories of bailment have blurred
somewhat, with less emphasis on pecuniary reward as opposed to other more incidental
benefits. I agree that Justice Purvis’ decision was restricted to the conclusion that any
benefit however “small or incidental” would be enough to create a bailment for reward.
Since he concluded that the bailment to Cargill was one for reward, he did not deal
directly with the issue of the standard of care in a gratuitous bailment. This leaves the
state of Alberta law on gratuitous bailment uncertain.
A review of Canadian jurisprudence reveals that there is conflicting Canadian case law;
some courts have held that a bailee will only be liable for gross negligence, and others
have held that the standard of care for bailment, whether gratuitous or for reward, is the
standard that is reasonable in the ci