The Legacy

Jim Beasley Sr., a legendary, boot-stomping Philadelphia Lawyer, left his firm in the hands of his ne’er-do-well son. But now Beasley Jr.’s quiet approach is not only winning big cases, but signaling a new era in the city’s courtrooms

Fifty-two,” Carpiniello replies, his voice grown suddenly thick and condescending. Beasley privately celebrates, because Carpiniello has cracked the veneer of civility between them. But his voice remains calm, kind.

“So,” he says, “that’s 5,200 patients from July of ’05 to July of ’06, is that fair to say?”

“If that’s the math,” replies Carpiniello, still talking down to his questioner, “yes.”

So Beasley does the math: 5,000 patients a year times nearly three years. “That’s almost 14,000 patients,” he calculates. “You remember Dr. Black specifically, 14,000 patients ago?”

“Absolutely,” replies Carpiniello.

The jurors openly smirk in their seats. “Mr. King showed you this document,” says Beasley, holding up a single sheet of paper. “It says ‘urine, light rosé.’”

By now, the jury has repeatedly heard what “rosé” means in the context of a hospital. But like a comedian setting up his punch line, Beasley retraces his steps. “What’s ‘rosé’ mean?” he asks.

“Rosé is a descriptive term relating to wine color,” replies Carpiniello.

“Wine color,” the attorney repeats. He puts his fingers to his chin, as if pondering Carpiniello’s response. It’s a simple action, and a kind of ruse — a means of buying an extra second to make his calculations, which run something like this: When a jury wishes the questioning would stop, the spirit of the room dims. When a jury expects that something important or dramatic is about to happen, the energy shoots higher. Beasley’s father always used to tell him that working as a plaintiff’s attorney required him to be director, producer and one of the principal actors in a play. So with the words “wine color” still hanging in the air, Beasley finally decides to open the box.

Striding quickly around the jurors’ stand, he crouches down on the floor, seizes the box’s cardboard flaps, and opens them quickly. When he stands again, he holds a bottle of rosé wine triumphantly aloft in his right hand. “Like this?” he asks.

The red liquid shines vividly under the harsh light of the courtroom, like fresh blood. And the bottle, like any good prop, speaks: If this was the color of Robert Black’s urine, why didn’t the hospital take swifter action?

Some of the jurors smile; others laugh appreciatively. The judge, smiling, says, “I think we’re all going to lose our appetites.”

After deliberations, the jury will return with a 10-2 verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding Black and his wife $650,000 in damages. The Kid wins the case, grandstanding with a wine bottle in the space afforded him by all his earlier restraint. And he acknowledged his father in the process. “I will call this,” he says, still holding the bottle in his hands, “Exhibit P-51.”

The P-51 was the warplane he talked his father into detouring 500 miles to Texas to see, the plane he and his father both enjoyed flying so much over the years.

Jim Beasley Jr., the Kid, may be a very different man from the Legend — a much more attentive father to his own four children, and a less famous attorney. And what it takes to be a Philadelphia Lawyer has definitely changed since his father’s day. But the Kid feels sure that the Legend, under the same circumstances, would have brought the wine bottle to court. And so, as a tribute to him, he brings a new Exhibit P-51 to every case. He tries to choose something unusual, something colorful — -something as flamboyant as a brilliant attorney corkscrewing through the weekend sunlight in a fighter plane — as a means of remembering the old man and keeping him alive in court. The jury never knows it. But they’ve just seen a son honor his father. They’ve just seen the Kid honor a Legend that modern times, and his own temperament, will never allow him to be.