In deciding whether or not Ford should be held liable for the Pinto case, the facts must be briefly discussed. Studies show that at the time Ford made the decision to continue with the production of the car their research showed that the estimated cost of modification each and every car is estimated at $11. On top of this, the company needed to immediately address the issue of the invasion of German and Japanese Cars in the market. This means that there was a pressing need to address the issue.
The basic facts that Ford has to contend with in deciding were the following. The first is that at that time a human life was valued at $200,725, as per industry estimates and court awards for damages. The cost of all estimated deaths and injuries is $49.5 million while the cost for modifications of all cars is valued at $137.5 million. In making the modifications, there were these alternatives; Lobbying against safety standards and applying for a patent for safer gas tanks. From the foregoing, it seems that safety was never an objective. This led to the three (3) main decisions that Ford could choose from: 1.) Postpone production and initiate modifications to the Pinto at the cost of $137.5 million, 2.) Continue production and pay $49.5 million in estimated damages, or 3.) Stop production of the Pinto.
Over the past five (5) years, there has been growing interest in making corporations more socially responsible. In fact, due to the events that transpired in the year 2002 when Enron and Worldcom publicly declared their commission of fraud and accounting misdeeds, Corporations are now under more pressure to not be the embodiment of responsible corporate culture but also the medium by which social change can be affected in society. As such, companies such as Ford should have more corporate responsibility, which is enforced through the courts of law. The problem, however, is that this has also spurred an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits which prevents companies from carrying out their business. It must be remembered that Courts of Justice have always been regarded as institutions where people can address their grievances in a peaceful manner. They have also been considered as “efficient mechanisms for the dispensation of justice” thus carrying out the maxim of social justice that those who are poor have much under the law. This maxim, however, has been interpreted in a rather obtuse manner by those who have sought to exploit the Justice system to further their own ends.
Over the years, there have been many individuals who have sought to enrich themselves through the filing of frivolous lawsuits. This is not to say of course that there are also a number of these cases which are meritorious. The lamentable fact, however, is that the number of these cases outnumber the meritorious ones and the media explosion that surrounds them have not only led to more of these cases but have also shaken the integrity of the Courts of Justice.
The problem that now exists, in relation to the Ford Pinto case, is in striking the balance between enforcing and ensuring corporate ethics and responsibility and harassment or abuse of the same. It is unquestionable that over the recent years corporations have responded to the clarion call by implementing many programs that encourage the development of personal values and ethics among their employees. In implementing these programs, companies have tried to maintain effective communication among employees and have also installed solid leadership. Be that as it may, there still has not been enough lapse of time to allow many of these programs to correct the mistakes that were made in the past. Irresponsible, if not, reprehensible corporate ethical behavior still exists in a number of corporations today and this is something that needs to be addressed.
In the situation at hand, it will be recalled that Ford’s corporate policy, calls for them to be the world’s leading Consumer Company for automotive products and services. Their mission states that they (we) are a global family with a proud heritage, passionately committed to providing personal mobility for people around the world. They (We) anticipate consumer needs and deliver outstanding products and services that improve people’s lives. They also claim that the customer is Job 1. We do the right thing for our customers, our people, our environment and our society. By improving everything we do, we provide superior returns to our shareholders. As such, Ford has a responsibility, as they claim, to first and foremost protect the general public. There is an inherent public interest in Ford Motors that must be protected and if filing of suits is one way by which to accomplish this then it must be resorted to.
Like all things, however, it must be remembered that a balance must also be struck. The legal system, as previously mentioned, was set in place to create equality among its citizens. Never has the legal system been conceptualized as a method of making individuals rich at the expense of others. This slew of frivolous cases only serves to show how much the perception of the Justice System has changed. The emphasis must remain on the dispensation of justice and not the dispensation of damages. Therefore, allowing suits to ensure corporate ethics and responsibility must be allowed. Corporations cannot be allowed to exercise self-regulation especially when the lives and safety of the public is at stake such as in the case of the Ford Pinto.