LS312: Ethics and the Legal Environment
Unit 4: Assignment
Professor Bill Mulherin
January 3, 2013
Amtrak’s Case Study
Corporate social responsibility can create big problems if corporations do not handle difficult situations properly, especially when there are accidents involved. According to the eGuide to Ethics and the Legal Environment chapter 2, “CSR is a business practice that demands that business organizations look to the effect their decisions have on multiple stakeholders” (eGuide 2013 pg. 3). I would have to say after reading The Wreck of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, the question of “Who was at fault” would be a difficult task to determine. However, I will do my best to break this case study down into elements that will eventually present an idea as to who truly was at fault for the derailment, which was caused by a towboat which was lost in the dense fog and hit the bridge while pushing 6 barges and knocked the track out of alignment. I will present to you all the stakeholders involved in this derailment, as well as their interests in cleaning up the mess this “normal accident” left in its wake. Next, I will explain the four areas of the corporation's social corporate responsibilities including the economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic areas. Based on these four areas of corporate social responsibility, I will reveal my final summary of who was responsible for this derailment and provide my justifications and recommendations to each of the businesses at fault. I will present a brief history of the derailment of Sunset Limited and the accident that took place (Eisenbeis, Hanks & Barrett, 1993). The case study involved several factors that contributed to creating this devastating accident. Amtrak’s transcontinental passenger train, Sunset Limited, was delayed in New Orleans and behind schedule thirty minutes before it left Alabama. The train was cruising on its tracks at seventy-two mph; a towboat that was owned by WGN (Warrior and Gulf Navigation Company) was trying to secure its towboat and six barges, the Mauvilla, to the riverbank on the Mobile River. The railroad and train that it was traveling on was owned by CSX (Chesapeake System Railroads), which in turn was funded by NRPC (National Railroad Passenger Corporation). The Mauvilla was classified under the Code of Federal Regulations Title 46 § 24-28 as an “uninspected towboat of less than 1600 tons,” which meant that it did not require the boat to have navigational equipment while traveling through foggy waters (History Channel, 1993) & (Eisenbeis, Hanks & Barrett, 1993). As a result, a reasonable person would have determined from this case study that some violations had already occurred from the start of both parties. The night was with a thick fog that reduced the pilot of the Mauvilla’s vision to the point that he veered off course and never realized the bridge was straight ahead. Coincidentally, this pilot was not as competent as the captain whom should have been guiding the vessel with the pilot in the first place. The pilot mistakenly saw the Big Bayou Canot Bridge as another vessel that would help him secure the Mauvilla, until the fog lifted. As the Mauvilla went under the bridge, it knocked the support beams off the bridge, which caused the Sunset Limited to derail and plunge several of its cars into the Big Bayou Canot River. According to this case study, “the crash caused the recording of over one hundred personal injuries and wrongful death suits against WGN, the pilot and captain of the Mauvilla, CSX, and Amtrak” for causing 47 deaths, hundreds of personal injuries and extensive property damage (Amtrak Case Study 2013). There were other companies who were involved, but were not placed in the conflicts of this accident, that should have been (Eisenbeis, Hanks & Barrett, 1993). The stakeholders involved in this accident are the people who was affected by each and every business decision that any...