Code of the District of Columbia

§ 28:7-403. Obligation of bailee to deliver; excuse.

(a) A bailee shall deliver the goods to a person entitled under a document of title if the person complies with subsections (b) and (c) of this section, unless and to the extent that the bailee establishes any of the following:

(1) Delivery of the goods to a person whose receipt was rightful as against the claimant;

(2) Damage to or delay, loss, or destruction of the goods for which the bailee is not liable;

(3) Previous sale or other disposition of the goods in lawful enforcement of a lien or on a warehouse’s lawful termination of storage;

(4) The exercise by a seller of its right to stop delivery pursuant to § 28:2-705 or by a lessor of its right to stop delivery pursuant to § 28:2A-526;

(5) A diversion, reconsignment, or other disposition pursuant to § 28:7-303;

(6) Release, satisfaction, or any other personal defense against the claimant; or

(7) Any other lawful excuse.

(b) A person claiming goods covered by a document of title shall satisfy the bailee’s lien if the bailee so requests or if the bailee is prohibited by law from delivering the goods until the charges are paid.

(c) Unless a person claiming the goods is a person against which the document of title does not confer a right under § 28:7-503(a):

(1) The person claiming under a document shall surrender possession or control of any outstanding negotiable document covering the goods for cancellation or indication of partial deliveries; and

(2) The bailee shall cancel the document or conspicuously indicate in the document the partial delivery or the bailee is liable to any person to which the document is duly negotiated.


(Dec. 30, 1963, 77 Stat. 727, Pub. L. 88-243, § 1; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-299, § 9, 60 DCR 2634.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28:7-403.

1973 Ed., § 28:7-403.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 28:7-202, § 28:7-209, and § 28:7-503.

Uniform Commercial Code Comment

Prior Uniform Statutory Provision: Sections 8 through 12, 16 and 19, Uniform Warehouse Receipts Act; Sections 11 through 15, 19 and 22, Uniform Bills of Lading Act.

Changes: Consolidated and rewritten.

Purposes of Changes: 1. The general and primary purpose of this revision is to simplify the statement of the bailee’s obligation on the document. The interrelations of the separate sections of the old uniform acts dealing with “obligation to deliver,” “justification in delivering,“ and ‘’liability for misdelivery“ are obscure. The present section is constructed on the basis of stating what previous deliveries or other circumstances operate to excuse the bailee’s normal obligation on the document. Accordingly, “justified” deliveries under the old uniform acts now find their place as “excuse” under subsection (1). Unjustified deliveries, i.e., “misdeliveries” under the old acts, are simply omitted from the list of excuses, thus permitting the normal obligation on the document to be asserted.

2. The principal case covered by subsection (1)(a) is delivery to a person whose title is paramount to the rights represented by the document. For example, if a thief deposits stolen goods in a warehouse and takes a negotiable receipt, the warehouseman is not liable on the receipt if he has surrendered the goods to the true owner, even though the receipt is held by a good faith purchaser.

See Section 7-503(1). However, if the owner entrusted the goods to a person with power of disposition, and that person deposited the goods and took a negotiable document, the owner’s receipt would not be rightful as against a holder to whom the negotiable document was duly negotiated, and delivery to the owner would not give the bailee a defense against such a holder. See Sections 7-502(1)(b), 7-503(1)(a).

3. Subsection (1)(b) amounts to a cross reference to all the tort law that determines the varying responsibilities and standards of care applicable to commercial bailees. A restatement of this tort law would be beyond the scope of this Act. Much of the applicable law as to responsibility of bailees for the preservation of the goods and limitation of liability in case of loss has been codified for particular classes of bailees in interstate and foreign commerce by federal legislation and treaty and for intrastate carriers and other bailees by the regulatory state laws preserved by Section 7-103. In the absence of governing legislation the common law will prevail subject to the minimum standard of reasonable care prescribed by Sections 7-204 and 7-309 of this Article. The optional language in subsection (1)(b) [not adopted in Minnesota. See Minnesota Code Comments, supra] states the rule laid down for interstate carriers in many federal cases. State decisions are in conflict as to both carriers and warehousemen. Particular states may prefer to adopt the federal rule.

4. Subsection (2) eliminates the implication of the old uniform acts that a request for delivery must be accompanied by a formal tender of the amount of the charges due. Rather, the bailee must request payment of the amount of his lien when asked to deliver, and only in case this request is refused is he justified in declining to deliver because of nonpayment of charges. Where delivery without payment is forbidden by law, the request is treated as implicit. Such a prohibition reflects a policy of uniformity to prevent discrimination by failure to request payment in particular cases.

5. Subsection (3) states the obvious duty of a bailee to take up a negotiable document or note partial deliveries conspicuously thereon, and the result of failure in that duty. It is subject to only one exception, that stated in subsection 1(a) of this section and in Section 7-503(1). It is limited to cases of delivery to a claimant; it has no application, for example, where goods held under a negotiable document are lawfully sold to enforce the bailee’s lien.

Cross References: Point 2: Sections 7-502 and 7-503.

Point 3: Sections 7-103, 7-204, 7-309 and 10-103.

Points 5: Section 7-503(1).

Definitional Cross References: “Bailee”. Section 7-102.

“Conspicuous”. Section 1-201.

“Delivery”. Section 1-201.

“Document”. Section 7-102.

“Document of title”. Section 1-201.

“Duly negotiate”. Section 7-501.

“Goods”. Section 7-102.

“Person”. Section 1-201.

“Receipt of goods”. Section 2-103.

“Right” Section 1-201.

“Terms”. Section 1-201.

“Warehouseman”. Section 7-102.

“Written”. Section 1-201.

Prior Uniform Statutory Provision: Former Section 7-403.

Changes: Definition in former Section 7-403(4) moved to Section 7-102; bracketed language in former Section 7-403(1)(b) deleted; added cross reference to Section 2A-526; changes for style.

Purposes: 1. The present section, following former Section 7-403, is constructed on the basis of stating what previous deliveries or other circumstances operate to excuse the bailee’s normal obligation on the document. Accordingly, “justified” deliveries under the pre-Code uniform acts now find their place as “excuse” under subsection (a).

2. The principal case covered by subsection (a)(1) is delivery to a person whose title is paramount to the rights represented by the document. For example, if a thief deposits stolen goods in a warehouse facility and takes a negotiable receipt, the warehouse is not liable on the receipt if it has surrendered the goods to the true owner, even though the receipt is held by a good faith purchaser. See Section 7-503(a). However, if the owner entrusted the goods to a person with power of disposition, and that person deposited the goods and took a negotiable document, the owner receiving delivery would not be rightful as against a holder to whom the negotiable document was duly negotiated, and delivery to the owner would not give the bailee a defense against such a holder. See Sections 7-502(a)(2), 7-503(a)(1).

3. Subsection (a)(2) amounts to a cross reference to all the tort law that determines the varying responsibilities and standards of care applicable to commercial bailees. A restatement of this tort law would be beyond the scope of this Act. Much of the applicable law as to responsibility of bailees for the preservation of the goods and limitation of liability in case of loss has been codified for particular classes of bailees in interstate and foreign commerce by federal legislation and treaty and for intrastate carriers and other bailees by the regulatory state laws preserved by Section 7-103. In the absence of governing legislation the common law will prevail subject to the minimum standard of reasonable care prescribed by Sections 7-204 and 7-309 of this Article.

The bracketed language found in former Section 7-403(1)(b) has been deleted thereby leaving the allocations of the burden of going forward with the evidence and the burden of proof to the procedural law of the various states.

Subsection (a)(4) contains a cross reference to both the seller’s and the lessor’s rights to stop delivery under Article 2 and Article 2A respectively.

4. As under former Section 7-403, there is no requirement that a request for delivery must be accompanied by a formal tender of the amount of the charges due. Rather, the bailee must request payment of the amount of its lien when asked to deliver, and only in case this request is refused is it justified in declining to deliver because of nonpayment of charges. Where delivery without payment is forbidden by law, the request is treated as implicit. Such a prohibition reflects a policy of uniformity to prevent discrimination by failure to request payment in particular cases. Subsection (b) must be read in conjunction with the priorities given to the warehouse lien and the carrier lien under Section 7-209 and 7-307, respectively. If the parties are in dispute about whether the request for payment of the lien is legally proper, the bailee may have recourse to interpleader. See Section 7-603.

5. Subsection (c) states the obvious duty of a bailee to take up a negotiable document or note partial deliveries conspicuously thereon, and the result of failure in that duty. It is subject to only one exception, that stated in subsection (a)(1) of this section and in Section 7-503(a). Subsection (c) is limited to cases of delivery to a claimant; it has no application, for example, where goods held under a negotiable document are lawfully sold to enforce the bailee’s lien.

6. When courts are considering subsection (a)(7), “any other lawful excuse,” among others, refers to compliance with court orders under Sections 7-601, 7-602 and 7-603.

Cross References: Point 2: Sections 7-502 and 7-503.

Point 3: Sections 2-705, 2A-526, 7-103, 7-204, and 7-309 and 10-103.

Point 4: Sections 7-209, 7-307 and 7-603.

Point 5: Section 7-503(1).

Point 6: Sections 7-601, 7-602, and 7-603.

Definitional Cross References: “Bailee”. Section 7-102.

“Conspicuous”. Section 1-201.

“Delivery”. Section 1-201.

“Document of title”. Section 1-201.

“Duly negotiate”. Section 7-501.

“Goods”. Section 7-102.

“Lessor”. Section 2A-103.

“Person”. Section 1-201.

“Receipt of goods”. Section 2-103.

“Right”. Section 1-201.

“Terms”. Section 1-201.

“Warehouse”. Section 7-102.