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Schulze v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

April 1, 2019

LERA SCHULZE, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GREGORY K.FRIZZELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the court is the Motion to Exclude, in Whole or Part, the Testimony of Dr. Gary A. Rouse [Doc. 24] of defendant the United States of America. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         I. Background

         This is a wrongful death case brought by plaintiff Lera Schulze against the United States of America for the death of her husband, John G. Schulze. On June 8, 2017, John Schulze reported suicidal thoughts to a nurse practitioner and was escorted to the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Health Care System Medical Center (“VA Hospital”) by law enforcement. The VA Hospital discharged John Schulze approximately two hours later. Two days later, on June 10, 2017, John Schulze died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.[1]

         In this lawsuit, plaintiff alleges defendant breached the standard of care by releasing John Schulze on June 8, 2017, rather than admitting him for an extended mental health evaluation. Plaintiff asserts a single claim for wrongful death pursuant to Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 1053.

         Plaintiff retained Dr. Gary A. Rouse, a licensed clinical psychologist, to opine as to whether defendant's evaluation and treatment of John Schulze on June 8, 2017, satisfied the applicable standard of care. Dr. Rouse provided a two-page report opining, in relevant part,

The VA records show the Veteran was admitted at 13:05 and released at 15:03. In my 36 years in private practice, I have never had a patient that I have requested hospitalization/evaluation for suicidal ideation, and in particular transported by law enforcement, “treated and released” in the same day, much less within a two hour period. This Veteran killed himself the next day by shooting himself in the head. His wife found him the following morning.
I strongly believe the VA failed in their treatment of this Veteran and should be held responsible for this failure, which resulted in the Veteran taking his own life due to his untreated severe psychological distress, which was reported directly to the VA by his provider prior to his admission.

[Doc. 24-3, p. 2]. Defendant now seeks to exclude Dr. Rouse's testimony, arguing Dr. Rouse's opinions fail to satisfy the Daubert standard's reliability requirement.

         II. Daubert Analysis [2]

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702,

[a] witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence ...

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