The Law: Innkeepers, Beware

Stephen Klim, a sometime house painter, had worked out a tidy arrangement with the manager of San Francisco's Junior Tar Hotel. Klim would pay the $10 weekly rent in cash, if he had it. If not, he would paint a room or two. Claiming that the painter had fallen in arrears, the hotel padlocked his room, which contained all his personal belongings. Klim sued, seeking his goods plus damages and contending that he had been relieved of his property without due process of law.

The Junior Tar quickly restored his personal effects. In the U.S. district court where the suit was tried,...

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