Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Mon 5/15 - Debt Ceiling, Robocall Lawsuits, Google Deceives in Ads, Gilead Win Implications and Apparent Agency Medical Malpractice

Mon 5/15 - Debt Ceiling, Robocall Lawsuits, Google Deceives in Ads, Gilead Win Implications and Apparent Agency Medical Malpractice

We have debt ceiling talk, robocall lawsuits, Google pays for deceptive ads, implications of the Gilead win for HIV prophylaxis and apparent agency in a medical malpractice case in Illinois.

We have a fun this day in legal history entry for today, on this day, May 15, in 1911, the US Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of Standard Oil pursuant to the Sherman Antitrust Act, holding that Standard Oil’s monopoly “unduly” restrained trade. The ruling resulted in breaking Standard Oil up into 34 independent companies. These companies became known as the "baby Standards." The breakup aimed to promote competition and prevent the concentration of economic power in a single entity.

Among the prominent companies that emerged from the Standard Oil breakup were Exxon (formerly Standard Oil of New Jersey), Mobil (formerly Standard Oil of New York), Chevron (formerly Standard Oil of California), and Amoco (formerly Standard Oil of Indiana). These companies went on to become major players in the oil industry. Ultimately, they’ve merged back down in to 4. Perfect.

President Joe Biden and congressional Republicans are engaged in critical debt-ceiling talks in an effort to reach a deal on spending levels and energy regulations to prevent a damaging default. While both sides are not close to an agreement, the White House has not ruled out the annual spending caps that Republicans insist on for any increase in the $31.4 trillion debt limit. Republicans, on the other hand, are not demanding conditions that the White House considers off-limits, such as repealing green-energy incentives in Biden's Inflation Reduction Act. Energy regulations could potentially be an area of common ground. Biden expressed optimism about reaching a deal and meetings between staff from both sides were described as constructive. However, time is running out, with the United States projected to run out of money to pay its bills as early as June 1. A default would have severe economic consequences and worry investors and consumers. Republicans argue that there is still plenty of time for a deal to be reached. Biden has called for Congress to increase the borrowing capacity without conditions but has also indicated a willingness to discuss budget matters with Republicans. Republicans face pressure from former President Donald Trump, who suggested allowing the country to default unless all their demands are met. House Republicans previously passed legislation that combines a $1.5 trillion debt-ceiling hike with $4.8 trillion in spending cuts, but Democrats oppose certain elements of that legislation. However, they have not ruled out spending caps more generally. The White House and Republicans might also consider easing permitting requirements for energy infrastructure. The longer it takes to reach an agreement, the narrower the scope of the deal is expected to become.

Biden, Republicans search for outline of debt-limit deal | Reuters

XCast Labs, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider, has been sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for allegedly facilitating billions of illegal robocalls. The FTC is seeking a court order to compel the company to cease the practice. XCast is accused of assisting other companies, including one that falsely claimed to be a government entity, in contacting individuals on the National Do Not Call Registry and using deceptive tactics to persuade them to make purchases or contributions. The lawsuit requests unspecified penalties against XCast. The company has not yet provided a comment in response to the allegations. The case was filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the FTC in a California district court.

Robocall company behind 'billions' of illegal calls sued by FTC | Reuters

Google, a unit of Alphabet, has agreed to pay $8 million to settle claims made by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the company used deceptive advertisements to promote its Pixel 4 smartphone. The allegations stated that Google hired radio announcers to provide testimonials about the phone, even though they were not allowed to use it. This settlement comes as Google faces scrutiny from both federal and state authorities regarding antitrust and consumer protection issues. Google stated that it takes advertising compliance seriously and is “pleased” to resolve the matter.

Google to pay $8 million to settle claims of deceptive ads -Texas AG | Reuters

We have previously reported on the fact Gilead Sciences recently won a patent-infringement case brought by the federal government over HIV drug patents, causing mixed opinions among industry insiders and healthcare advocates about the impact on future collaborations. The jury voided three government-owned patents and ruled that Gilead's Truvada and Descovy for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) did not infringe them. While some believe the verdict won't significantly affect government-industry collaborations, others worry it may discourage pharmaceutical companies from entering license agreements with the government. The case highlights the complex relationship between the government and industry regarding intellectual property rights in research partnerships. Now the issue is that the outcome could potentially lead to a more deferential approach by the government towards pharmaceutical companies, raising concerns about high drug prices and limited access for consumers. The case underscores the ongoing tension between the government's desire to protect its rights and the pharmaceutical industry's need for collaboration, leaving the future of such partnerships uncertain and signaling potential implications for not only pricing but also access to innovative treatments.

Big Pharma, US Research Pacts in Flux After Gilead’s Trial Win

Rush-Copley Medical Center Inc., located in Illinois, has been denied summary judgment in a medical malpractice case where a non-employed doctor, Hinna Khan, is accused of negligence. The court ruled that the degree of control exerted by the hospital over Khan was a matter of fact that needed to be determined by a jury. Typically, hospitals have no control over the medical judgment of non-employee physicians, but this case raises the question of whether the hospital can be held vicariously liable for the alleged negligence of a doctor perceived by patients to be employed by the facility.

Nathaniel Pryor Sr. and Adriana Madrigal filed the lawsuit against Rush and Khan, alleging that negligent care by the pediatrician caused brain damage, leading to their son's cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, and permanent disability. Rush argued that it couldn't be held liable because Khan was not its employee, as indicated on an admission form signed by the baby's mother. However, in Illinois, hospitals can be held responsible for the actions of doctors who are their actual or apparent agents.

Apparent agency is established when a physician's actions would reasonably lead someone to believe they are an employee of the hospital, and the hospital acquiesces to such conduct, causing the plaintiff to rely on it. This is a highly fact-dependent question that the court determined should be resolved by a jury. The plaintiffs asserted that Rush's discharge policy required Khan to fulfill certain obligations before discharging a patient, which she allegedly failed to do.

Rush contended that the discharge policy only applied to nurses, but there was evidence suggesting that doctors were also expected to follow it. Judge Franklin U. Valderrama concluded that there was an unresolved question of fact regarding Rush's control over Khan's discharge decisions, denying the hospital's motion for summary judgment. The case will now proceed to trial, shedding light on the complex issue of hospital liability for non-employed physicians and the importance of clarifying the nature of their relationship in such cases.

Illinois Hospital Faces Trial Over Doctor’s Alleged Negligence

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at