Miller v. Warren
182 W.Va 560, 390 S.E.2d 207 (1990)
The Millers were staying in
Warren's motel when there was a fire. They were injured. They sued for negligence.
The Millers argued that were
no smoke alarms which could have alerted them to the fire.
Miller argued that the local
fire code did not require smoke alarms. Therefore, since he complied
with the law, he couldn't be held negligent.
The Appellate Court found for the
The Appellate Court found
that, while failure to comply with a regulation is evidence of negligence, compliance with a regulation is evidence of due
care, but not conclusive evidence of due
The Court found that if
Warren knew that there was a risk of fire, and a reasonable person would
have installed smoke alarms, then Warren can be found negligent even though he met the requirements of the
Basically, this case said that
he standard for negligence is
different from the standard for legal culpability, and just because you
are complying with the law, that not proof that you aren't acting negligently.
Conversely, just because you
have broken a law, that doesn't automatically mean that you are negligent.
See Impson v. Structural
Metals, Inc. (487 S.W.2d 694 (Tex.
Even though it isn't
conclusive, complying with a law is evidence that you weren't negligent, and violating a law is evidence that you were
negligent. So the jury can
consider it as a factor in determining negligence.