Not everything is black and white. That's why we need to grapple with the gray.
Here is this episode's ethics challenge:
Daniel owned a neighborhood restaurant. One day, he received a frantic call from his friend Michael, who owned a local catering business. “My freezer just broke down. Can I store a few cases of chickens in your freezer for a week or two until I get mine repaired?”
Daniel had room to spare and was happy to help Michael out. When Michael arrived with the chickens, Daniel noticed that the expiration date on the cartons was past due. He pointed this out to Michael, who shrugged it off.
“The expiration date only applies when they’re fresh,” he said. “Once they’re frozen, you can keep them forever.” Daniel wasn’t so sure, but it was Michael’s business, so he let the matter drop.
Three months later, despite repeated calls from Daniel, Michael still had not picked up his chickens.
One afternoon, Daniel got a call from a nearby restaurateur. “The inspectors are making surprise visits this week,” he told Daniel. “They’ve already dropped in on me and they could be at your place any moment. Make sure you have everything in order.”
Daniel remembered the expiration date on Michael’s chickens. The inspectors might not agree with Michael’s reasoning and might not believe that Daniel was storing them for someone else. They might fine him, or even shut him down. Daniel decided he had given Michael enough chances. He carried the chicken cases into the back alley and tossed them into his Dumpster.
A few hours later, Michael showed up unannounced. “I’m here for my chickens,” he said with a smile. Daniel explained why he hadn’t been able to hold Michael’s chickens any longer, saying he was free to retrieve them from the Dumpster. However, in the summer heat the chickens had defrosted enough to attract some local cats, which had rendered the chickens unfit for humans.
Michael demanded that Daniel compensate him for the chickens. Daniel replied that he had ceased to be responsible when Michael failed to retrieve his chickens on time and after repeated requests to do so.
Does Daniel have to compensate Michael for the chickens?
Meet this week’s panelists:
Sam Ardery is a national mediator, trial lawyer, consultant, speaker, and author. He teaches negotiation at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law and is author of Positively Conflicted: Engaging with Courage, Compassion and Wisdom in a Combative World.
Jo Erven is an accountant, an auditor, and an ethics speaker, who prides herself on not being your TYPICAL accountant, auditor, or ethics speaker. She is the author of Becoming the Everyday Ethicist.
Diane Wyzga, RN, JD & story consultant is founder of the Engaged Storyism® Method. She helps professionals identify, shape & deliver their messaging stories with value & heart that are understood, remembered, recalled & acted upon.