The IDDR Approach: Ethical Scenarios

  • Scenario 1 Info:
    • The IDDR Approach and Wrongful Interference. Julie Whitchurch was an employee of Vizant Technologies, LLC. After she was fired, she created a website falsely accusing Vizant of fraud and mismanagement to discourage others from doing business with the company. Vizant filed a suit in a federal district court against her, alleging wrongful interference with a business relationship. The court concluded that Whitchurch’s online criticism of Vizant adversely affected its employees and operations, forced it to accept reduced compensation to obtain business, and deterred outside investment. The court ordered Whitchurch to stop her online efforts to discourage others from doing business with Vizant.
  • Question 1: How does the motivation for Whitchurch’s conduct differ from other cases that involve wrongful interference? What does this suggest about the ethics in this situation? Discuss.
  • Question 2: Using the IDDR approach, analyze and evaluate Vizant’s decision to file a suit against Whitchurch.
  • Scenario 2:
    • A Question of Ethics—The IDDR Approach and Product Liability. While replacing screws in a gutter, John Baugh fell off a ladder and landed headfirst on his concrete driveway. He sustained a severe brain injury, which permanently limited his ability to perform routine physical and intellectual functions. He filed a suit in a federal district court against Cuprum S.A. de C.V., the company that designed and made the ladder, alleging a design defect under product liability theories. Baugh weighed nearly 200 pounds, which was the stated weight limit on this ladder. Kevin Smith, a mechanical engineer, testified on Baugh’s behalf that the gusset (backet) on the ladder’s right front side was too short to support Baugh’s weight. This caused the ladder’s leg to fail and Baugh to fall. In Smith’s opinion, a longer gusset would have prevented the accident. Cuprum argued that the accident occurred because Baugh climbed too high on the ladder and stood on its fourth step and pail shelf, neither of which were intended for the purpose. No other person witnessed Baugh using the ladder prior to his fall, however, so there was no evidence to support Cuprum’s argument.
  • Question 1: What is a manufacturer’s legal and ethical duty when designing and making products for consumers? Did Cuprum meet this standard? Discuss.
  • Question 2: Did the mechanical engineer’s testimony establish that a reasonable alternative design was available for Cuprum’s ladder? Explain.
  • Scenario 3:
    • A Question of Ethics—The IDDR Approach and Identity Theft. Heesham Broussard obtained counterfeit money instruments. To distribute them, he used account information and numbers on compromised FedEx accounts procured from hackers. Text messages from Broussard indicated that he had participated previously in a similar fraud and that he knew the packages would be delivered only if the FedEx accounts were “good.” For his use of the accounts, Broussard was charged with identity theft. In defense, he argued that the government could not prove he knew the misappropriated accounts belonged to real persons or businesses.
  • Question 1: Does the evidence support Broussard’s assertion? From an ethical perspective, does it matter whether he knew that the accounts belonged to real customers? Why or why not?
  • Question 2: If FedEx knew its customers’, account information had been compromised, use the IDDR approach to consider whether the company had an ethical obligation to take steps to protect those customers from theft.
  • Scenario 4:
    • A Question of Ethics—The IDDR Approach and Discharge by Operation of Law. Lisa Goldstein reserved space for a marriage ceremony in a building owned by Orensanz Events, LLC, in New York City. The rental agreement provided that on cancellation of the event “for any reason beyond Owner’s control,” the client’s sole remedy was another date for the event or a refund. Shortly before the wedding, the New York City Department of Buildings found Orensanz’s building to be structurally unstable and ordered it vacated. The owner closed it and told Goldstein to find another venue. She filed a suit in a New York state court against Orensanz for breach of contract, arguing that the city’s order had been for a cause within the defendant’s control.
  • Question 1: Is the owner of a commercial building ethically obligated to keep it structurally sound? Apply the IDDR approach in the context of the Goldstein case to answer this question.
  • Question 2: Is a contracting party ethically obligated to “relax” the terms of the deal if the other party encounters “trouble” in performing them? Discuss.
  • Scenario 5:
    • A Question of Ethics—The IDDR Approach and Damages. Dr. John Braun conceived an innovative device to treat adolescent scoliosis, a severe deformity of the spine. As consideration for the assignment of his intellectual property in the invention, Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., a medical device manufacturer, offered Braun a higher-than-typical royalty and upfront payment. Medtronic also promised to fund expensive human trials for the device to obtain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. But Medtronic never applied for permission to conduct human clinical studies. Finally, frustrated with the lack of performance on the contract, Braun filed a suit in a federal district court against Medtronic, seeking damages for breach
  • Question 1: Why would Medtronic make expensive promises and fail to perform? Is this ethical? Discuss, using the IDDR approach.
  • Question 2: What would be the measure of damages that Braun seeks? Do the circumstances warrant an award of punitive damages? Explain.

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