Law & Order

Season 3 Episode 4

The Corporate Veil

Aired Monday 10:00 PM Oct 14, 1992 on NBC

Episode Recap

A teenager named Roberto Martinez has a heart attack when his pacemaker fails. His mother shows up at the precinct with her attorney asking for criminal charges to be filed against the manufacturer of his pacemaker. Cragen resists at first, but when Mrs. Martinez's attorney says that the surgery was unnecessary, he agrees to investigate.

Logan and Cerreta go speak to Dr. Trevor Hellems, who denies the surgery was unnecessary. He defends his actions, saying that the surgery was necessary and that pacemakers usually do not fail, especially ones from BioNorm Industries, the manufacturer of Roberto's pacemaker.

After speaking to several specialists who also defend Dr. Hellems's actions, Cerreta and Logan pay a visit to Mrs. Martinez. When they tell her that they don't believe anything illegal occurred, she informs them that BioNorm Industries offered her $50,000 as a settlement. They told her she would have to sign a statement in which she agreed not to say anything about the matter.

The detectives talk to Mr. Cleary from BioNorm industries, who denies there was a problem with the pacemaker. He says he only offered her the money to try to eliminate the cost of a trial. However, something he says makes Cerreta and Logan think that he might have been sued before.

Paul Robinette checks it out for them, but they can't find any court records. Paul advises them to check with the FDA to see if there are any complaints. Ms. Kenny at the FDA says there have been 6 reports of failed pacemakers from BioNorm, but the doctors never followed up on the reports. The detectives get the doctors' names and numbers from her.

The first doctor they talk to admits that he didn't follow up on his complaint because the victim's wife needed the money. They talk to the other doctors and find similar situations, so Cragen tells them they have 24 hours to find out what Cleary's hiding.

Logan and Cerreta go back to Cleary's office and question him again, this time with Cleary's son present. They tell the detectives that they compared the serial numbers listed on the lawsuit documents with their records and found that the pacemaker inside Roberto Martinez was actually sold to Dr. Evelyn Stark to be implanted in her patient, Ethel Barnet. Cleary said he already spoke to Dr. Stark, but she had already spoken to a lawyer and had no comment. When the detectives arrive at her office, Dr. Stark is uncooperative, but she does tell them that Ethel Barnet got a new pacemaker, and the old one was donated to Manhattan Med. Stark says that the pacemaker had a life of 5 years, and Mrs. Barnet used it for three years.

At Manhattan Med, a man admits to having sold some pacemakers on the side to a man named Jeff Suiter. The detectives go see Jeff Suiter, who says that he always told his buyers when they were getting secondhand goods because it was illegal not to. Paul confirms that as long as the patient knew the supplies were used, it was legal.

The detectives question Mrs. Martinez again and she insists she would never have purchased a used pacemaker. They then return to Dr. Hellems's office, and he admits that he knew it was used, but he didn't tell Mrs. Martinez because he knew she was poor and did not have insurance. He says there is no reason the pacemaker should have failed, because it has a life of five years, and the battery expiration date was three years away.

Logan and Cerreta realize that the battery must have been changed because Dr. Stark said the pacemaker only had 2 years left before it expired. Cleary's son confirms that the model that Roberto had implanted expired months before his death, so the detectives arrest Suiter.

Ms. Kenny from the FDA shows up and says that the leads - the wires that connect to the heart - on the pacemaker were corroded and that was the cause of the malfunction, not a battery failure. The judge dismisses the charges.

Adam, Paul, and Ben discuss the problem and decide to revisit the other six cases that BioNorm settled to see if the wires in those pacemakers were also corroded.

Paul visits a young woman who received a $250,000 settlement from BioNorm when her father's pacemaker failed, but she won't talk about it because she does not want to lose the money. After speaking to the other families, Paul meets with Ben and tells him all of the pacemakers were purchased around the same time. He goes back and speaks to Cleary's son, who tells him they bought the leads from a company called Asian Pacific Trading, operated by a man named Ziesel. Paul checked him out but he disappeared a few years before.

Paul visits another company that bought leads from Asian Pacific Trading. The man he speaks to tells him that Ziesel was a crook who took him for $50,000. Ziesel sold him leads manufactured in Singapore at a company called CJL Electronics. When the leads arrived, the vast majority of them were corroded. The man tells Paul he got rid of all of them because he couldn't be sure any of them, even the ones that appeared to be okay, were safe.

Paul finds five companies that purchased the damaged leads. BioNorm was the only one who used any of them. Adam calls it depraved indifference to human life and tells Ben and Paul to go after BioNorm. Ben tells him it's more complicated than that because they're not sure who authorized the use of the damaged leads. They believe it to be Cleary's son, Steven, who was the one in charge of checking the leads on the assembly line. However, he was not considered a high managerial agent at the time, so the law says they cannot go after the corporation. They decide to indict Steven Cleary on murder two.

At the trial, Ms. Kenny and a man from one of the other medical supply companies testify about the bad leads. Mr. and Mrs. Cleary testify that they were not in charge of inspecting the leads. Then Steven takes the stand and expresses remorse for the wire that made it through his inspection and killed Roberto Martinez. Ben tries to introduce the other six failed pacemakers, but Steven Cleary's attorney objects and the judge says it is too prejudicial.

While talking over the case with Adam and Ben, Paul remembers that Cleary told him that his father went to City College, but at trial talked about his parents contributing to the MIT Alumni Fund. Realizing that Mrs. Cleary must also have gone to MIT, they bring in Steven Cleary and his attorney for a meeting. They threaten to go after the entire corporation unless Steven testifies against his mother. He refuses, but he says he will testify against his father in exchange for a deal for his mother and himself.

Steven Cleary tells Ben and Paul that he and his mother spent days sorting out the faulty wires. When the first person died, they begged Mr. Cleary to recall all of the pacemakers with wires from Asian Pacific Trading, but Mr. Cleary refused. Mrs. Cleary backs up Steven's testimony, and Mr. Cleary ends up taking most of the rap.