Law & Order: Season 3, Episode 4

The Corporate Veil (14 Oct. 1992)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 69 users  
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A teenage boy dies because of a faulty pacemaker, and detectives soon discover that he is not the only person to die from pacemakers manufactured by the same company.

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Title: The Corporate Veil (14 Oct 1992)

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Dr. Elizabeth Olivet (credit only)
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Bruce Norris ...
Steven Cleary
Robert Milli ...
Roger Cleary
Carla Pinza ...
Rosa Martinez
Elizabeth Hubbard ...
Mrs. Cleary
Michael Lombard ...
Miller
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Ms. Kenny
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Judge Eric Bertram (as George Murdoch)
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Storyline

Detectives Cerreta and Logan investigate the death of a young man, Roberto Martinez, who died of a heart attack behind the wheel of his car. Despite his young age, Martinez had a pacemaker which apparently failed. His family is suing the company that manufactured the pacemaker but they also want a criminal investigation. What they learn is the the device implanted in Martinez was previously used in another patient. The doctor in that case claims she donated the device to a medical school after her own patient received a new one. The pacemaker was acquired and refurbished by Bruce Sutter but it appears he may have changed the expiration date of the battery. A detailed examination however reveal's the problem may have been one of quality which leads them back to the manufacturer and eventually charge the owner's son, Steven Cleary, with murder. Written by garykmcd

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14 October 1992 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Reflected in the door behind Cerreta and Logan as they leave the Martinez's apartment building. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dear Heart.
15 December 2010 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

Good episode. A young man from a Puerto Rican family is driving along, suffers a heart attack, and smashes into a fruit stand, spilling the guavas all over the place. Serreta and Logan are curious. How does an eighteen-year-old guy have a sudden heart attack. The trail leads to a company that "refurbishes" the pacemakers that are implanted in the chest to keep the heartbeat regular.

The pacemaker this victim was wearing simply failed. A check reveals that it was past its sell-by date and that someone had altered the registration date and extended the active period by a year. This particular pacemaker had been used by a patient for three years before it was replaced by a newer model that ran half on gasoline and half on ethanol. The old one was examined, batteries replaced, sterilized, and put back on the market at less cost. It was purchased by the poor but honest Puerto Rican family. Except for the alteration of the sell-by date, it's all legal. Even WITH the phony expiration date, it's nothing more than fraud, although the practice has resulted in at least six deaths.

Now, "Law and Order" deals chiefly with two kinds of narratives. One is personal and depends on love, jealousy, intrigues, perjured testimony, habeus corpus, in flagrante delicto, and whatnot. The other kind of narrative takes us up to the organizational level and pokes into the nooks and crannies of businesses like the diamond trade or the manufacture and marketing of cardiac pacemakers. We get to know some of the details of the businesses.

Did you know that the leads -- the little wires that lead from the battery of the pacemaker to the cardiac muscle -- can corrode without the corrosion being detectable without a test of conductivity? The law does not require a test of conductivity -- which is designed to see whether the gadget WORKS or doesn't work! And of course if it fails after implant, your only recourse is to return it to the seller and demand your money back.

What puzzles me as much as the absence of anything resembling genuine consumer protection is how the writers could dream up a story that depended so much on details of high technology, let alone law. Both are areas that seem specifically designed to cause an outsider to feel as if someone had just slipped some acid into his latte.

I couldn't find any evidence that Dick Wolf, the idea man, or any of his writers had any background in law. Wolf himself came out of commercials. Yet, on top of having to know the court system in its organic peculiarities, the writers here had to research the material background of pacemakers. In other "organizational" stories it's some business that's equally recherché.

You and I might have done it but it would have taken months, yet these guys bang this stuff out as if it were pulp fiction. Such hard work calls for applause.


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