Lax Organizational Policies Contribute to Drunk Driving Death

Organizational Policy Expert WitnessThis case involves a motor accident resulting in death, and the allegedly insufficient organizational controls which lead top the accident. The target defendant is the general manager (GM) of a car dealership with a history of alcohol abuse. The CEO of the company was the defendant’s father-in-law, who had known of the defendant’s liquor consumption for some time. Furthermore,  it was generally understood among the employees at the dealership that the GM abused alcohol. One night, the GM took home a motorcycle from the dealership, putting her stepdaughter on the motorcycle with her in spite of the fact that she was intoxicated. At some point during the ride, the defendant lost control of the motorcycle and crashed the vehicle, killing her step-daughter in the accident. The plaintiff alleges that the policies and procedures of the dealership did not contain any regulations or mechanisms to prevent chronically intoxicated people from the operating the dealership’s vehicles.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Would it make a difference if there were policies and procedures in place to curtail this type of behavior?
  • 2. If you have proper adopted policies, can it make a difference?

Expert Witness Response E-007724

The effectiveness of any organizational policy depends on several factors, including:

a.) the ability to observe violations of the policy or to have violations reported
b.) the ability to enforce violations of the policy through some form of punishment
c.) the organizational norms about the viability of the policy.

Simply having policies and procedures on the books does not necessarily discourage undesirable behavior. For example, if there was a policy that everyone needed to pass a breathalyzer test before borrowing a vehicle, but everyone in the organization (including senior management) did not follow the policy, then the policy is de facto ineffective through cultural norms that surround the policy within the organization. Furthermore, if there is no way for those who observe violations of the policy to report the violations without fearing for the safety of their job, then the policy is unlikely to be effective. Policies that pass the three thresholds laid out above typically have a real and measurable impact on organizational behavior. This does not mean that people do not subvert the policies from time to time, but if the organization has set up policies that meet those criteria, they are typically effective in changing behavior.

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