Ethics 117 (2):171-201 (2007)
The Herald of Free Enterprise, a ferry operating in the English Channel, sank on March 6, 1987, drowning nearly two hundred people. The official inquiry found that the company running the ferry was extremely sloppy, with poor routines of checking and management. “From top to bottom the body corporate was infected with the disease of sloppiness.”1 But the courts did not penalize anyone in what might seem to be an appropriate measure, failing to identify individuals in the company or on the ship itself who were seriously enough at fault. As one commentator put it, “The primary requirement of finding an individual who was liable . . . stood in the way of attaching any significance to the organizational sloppiness that had been found by the official inquiry.”2 In a case like this it can make good sense to hold that while the individuals involved may not bear a high degree of personal responsibility, together as a corporate enterprise they should carry full responsibility for what occurred. Although the members may not fully satisfy the conditions for being held personally responsible—although there are mitigating circumstances that excuse them in some mea-.
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