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Liebeck v McDonalds

1. Was it ethical for McDonalds to encourage media portrayal of the case? Yes.
McDonalds perspective of the hot coffee was that the elevated temperatures deliver a
better product to their customers. Millions of customers enjoyed the hot coffee without
incident, so their portrayal of Liebeck, though tone deaf, was not unethical. Misguided,
yes. Stupid, probably. But I do not believe that McDonalds actions crossed the unethical
line.
2. McDonalds target in brewing and maintaining their coffee at elevated temperatures was
not inconsequential. The high temperatures were required to maintain a high quality
product. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as free lunch. The consequences of keeping
coffee at elevated temperatures is a higher likelihood of burns, particularly when other
mistakes (such as faulty lids) exist. McDonalds likely believed they were operating in
the best interest of their stakeholders, but while doing so, they alienated some of the most
important stakeholder.customers. R. Edward Freeman would argue that McDonalds
was overlooking the potential harm to one stakeholder in order to optimize the benefit to
other stakeholders. When lawn mower producers make faster machines, with sharper
blades, the chances of injuries go up. A better product is better for the company and the
consumers, and all stakeholders. The ethical responsibility to McDonalds (and other
companies) is to make greater or equal contributions toward safety improvements in their
products to compensate for the new risks.
3. I agree that McDonalds should have been found liable. When introducing a product
which has a greater potential to injure a consumer, the company has a responsibility to
inform consumers of the risk as well as help guard against injuries. Rather than fight the

liability claim, McDonalds should have quietly settled the medical bills for Ms. Liebeck
and spent their efforts trying to improve coffee cups and lids to prevent future burns.
Ford Pinto
1. The laws of physics apply equally to all people, companies and products. Heavier cars are
more expensive, more expensive to operate, and inherently safer than lighter cars. John
Rawls would consider the downside of cheap, lightweight cars but also the upside of low
cost vehicles. The decision made by Ford in the development of the Pinto is a decision
made multiple times a day in developing products. The inclusion of safety devices and
safer constructions usually (not always) cost more. The definition of safe is not binary.
Rawls may consider the benefits of a low priced car that lower income individuals can
afford, and the benefits of the access to this low-priced transportation. For example, the
Pinto is safer than a moped. Ford should have made every attempt to maximize the safety
of the Pinto. However, there are always limitations to the cost/benefit of safety. For
example, Ford may have added so many safety changes to the Pinto that they would be
unable to hold the price low enough for target customers to buy. With my limited
knowledge of the design process, Ford likely made the right decision. If Fords
justification for keeping the more risky design was more inline with the net benefits of
the low-cost vehicle rather than the litigated value of a customers life, the case would not
be studied in business schools. Many government organizations place a dollar value on
human life for purposes of investing in infrastructure development. The Federal DOD and
the EPA use a cost benefit analysis on infrastructure development similar to Ford.
2. M. Friedman may have appreciated Fords cost-benefit attempts, but would have
certainly viewed their analysis as nave. As a free-market champion, Friedman would

have likely cited a cost-benefit analysis to the market alternatives rather than Fords use
of valuing human life and suffering. The Pinto was, after-all, much safer than the Model
T. If Ford would have used other competitive vehicles as their basis of comparison, they
would have fared much better in the public eye. R. Edward Freeman would have argued
that the Ford analysis was also flawed because it failed to properly value all customers.
Specially, the sense of violating their rights was not properly accounted for. By only
applying the costs of death and pain and to individuals physically harmed by the design,
Ford failed to properly capture the rest of the customer base. Like McDonalds, Ford
failed to properly value all of their customers and mistakenly only accounted for the costs
of just a few.