A summary of the historical case of a deadly catwalk collapse at the Kansas City hotel. The case emphasizes issues of professional responsibility. It includes multiple resources, and instructor's guide, and photographs.
On July 17, 1981, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, held a videotaped tea-dance party in their atrium lobby. With many party-goers standing and dancing on the suspended walkways, connections supporting the ceiling rods that held up the second and fourth-floor walkways across the atrium failed. Both the second and fourth-floor walkways collapsed onto the crowded first-floor atrium below while the offset third-floor walkway remained intact. The collapsing of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkways is considered the most devastating in the history of the United States. The collapse resulted in millions of dollars in damage, one hundred fourteen people dead and more than two hundred injured, not to mention the thousands adversely affected by the devastating accident.
An investigation was conducted, and evidence supplied by video tape and witnesses led to a number of principals involved losing their engineering licenses, a number of firms filing bankruptcy, and a great many expensive law suits settled out of court. The case illustrates the importance of meeting professional responsibilities, and the consequences faced by professionals who fail to meet those responsibilities.
This case is appropriate for structural design, statics and materials classes in addition to its usefulness as a general overview of consequences of professional actions. The Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse provides a vivid example of the importance of accuracy and detail in engineering design and technical drawings (particularly regarding revisions), and the costly consequences of negligence in this realm.
Photos from the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse (opens in new window), maintained by the Texas A&M University.
The Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse Case (PDF opens in new window)
Return to Engineering Ethics Cases from Texas A&M.
This bibliography includes examples of different ways instructors have used case studies to introduce ethical topics to their students and resources for finding cases and incorporating them into the classroom.
In this essay, Dr. Whitbeck outlines an 'agent-centered' approach to learning ethics. The central aim is to prepare students to act wisely and responsibly when faced with moral problems. She provides a number of examples and cases with descriptions of questions and directions for promoting student participation and stimulating thought and discussion.