Washington Law Review
Many of the earliest cases of which reports are extant deal with the liability of the innkeeper to his guest, and the earliest known Roman law gave an action against the innkeeper if the baggage of the guest was in any way damaged, lost or stolen. At common law the innkeeper was the insurer of the baggage of his guest. He was under an absolute liability unless he could prove that the loss was caused by an Act of God, the public enemy, by the act of the guest or of the guest's servants. This absolute liability was extended to include all movable goods, and even those goods upon which a felony could not be committed. The Washington Court has fully approved of this common law rule and has applied it strictly. This stringent rule of the common law developed through necessity. There being many ruffians and robbers abroad at night throughout the land, the wayfarer had to put up at an inn or else likely suffer the loss of all his goods and possibly his life. Often the innkeeper was sorely tempted to cast his lot with that of the highwayman, with the natural result that the traveler could never feel secure. This led to the common law placing an absolute liability upon the innkeeper, thus taking all the profits out of such conspiracy with the highwayman.
George M. Martin,
Statutory Limitation of Innkeepers' Liability,
14 Wash. L. Rev. & St. B.J.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol14/iss3/5