Bluff City Law Episode 7: “American Epidemic”
After a friend (and DA) of a nearby town loses his wife to an overdose, Sydney and Elijah find themselves appointed as Assistant District Attorneys in an effort to find justice for their friend, but also to make a dent in the opioid epidemic and stem the tide of pills in this town, just a little east of Memphis.
How Did We Get Here?
The still grieving duo of Straits listen as their anguished friend tries to figure out how to tell his young daughter that her mother will never come home again. As he searches his heart, he thinks that he no longer wants to serve as the DA for the town of McRae, lamenting that 10% of the town has an arrest record for drug possession. Elijah gently reminds him that now is not the time to make big decisions. He suggests taking a beat before walking away from his work.
Back in Memphis Sydney fills Anthony in on just how easily a reasonable prescription can turn into an addiction. Anthony thinks the same thing happening to Maya would be his worst nightmare. Sydney wonders if, under the same circumstances, the same thing could happen to her. Especially given how similar she and Kate were. Anthony reminds her that is the crux of the opioid epidemic, it can happen to anyone and seemingly no one is immune. The pair investigate strategies in suing pharmaceutical companies, case precedent and strategies. When Anthony inquires about reading Elijah in, Sydney request to hold off for now.
At the other end of the firm, Elijah asks Emerson to help him do a deep dive into cases regarding the opioid crisis. What has worked, what hasn’t. Who have the cases involved, etc. Emerson asks if they should tell Sydney and Elijah declines for now. Something, something, great minds thinking alike.
As both find a potential winning strategy, they head off to tell the other Strait. They meet over-talking one another in the middle. I guess the Strait duo is going to take on the opioid crisis, at least in one town.
Time to Strategize
In what serves as the weekly Red Team style meeting, the lawyers at Strait and Associates go over the case strategy and look for weaknesses. Despite Sydney’s weak drawing skills, the team understands the strategy and the case moves forward. After being sworn in as ADA’s, they set out to make their case. As we do a little investigating with Briana in the clinics, we find out that her brother is an addict and Sydney is worried about asking Bri to work this case. Bri is tough as nails and straightens her jacket and heads into the clinic. Not every clinic in town prescribed pain medication, but 3 clinics, all owned by Dr. Pyle prescribed 90 opioid pills to a new patient without a physical exam.
They start with a settlement conference but Dr. Pyles fancies himself the hero of the working class for the town and refuses to back down. In court, Sydney offers a persuasive opening argument and the first several witnesses go a long way to making their case. That’s when it all starts to fall apart. An EMT who was present and treated Kate for her overdose reveals that it wasn’t just pills. They found the burned foil and lighter at the scene as well, remnants of heroin. While Sydney argues this just strengthens the case, Bri argues that it changes the face of the case to the jury. A heroin addict is perceived differently that someone who has succumbed to a prescription pill addiction.
What to do?
The rules for DA’s are different that the rules for lawyers in private practice. Exculpatory evidence must be shared with the defense, though Sydney briefly argues they should bury it. Bri talks about how this will change the case and she will be seen only as a drug addict now and the jury will not link it to the pill from Dr. Pyles clinic. They put Jason on the stand anyway and Elijah’s question added to Jason’s testimony make a real, a true and a compelling story. The lawyer for Dr. Pyle, however, makes an equally compelling case regarding the DA’s history of prosecutions, the nature of his wife’s death and the “special circumstances” of this case.
Needing a new strategy, Bri does more investigating into pain clinics a little further outside of town. She finds two doctors in clinics associated with Dr. Pyles willing to take a cut from drug deals while funneling pills to the streets. If they can flip one of the doctors, the case will be solidified. A little bit of theatre convinces Mr. Deitchman to flip on Dr. Pyle. Facing the mountain of evidence, Dr. Pyle agrees to hand over all his profits for rehab clinics, 15 years in Federal prison by giving over his suppliers (the drug companies). That is a huge victory for this small town.