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Voss v. United States
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
423 F. Supp. 751 (1976)
William Giles was a veteran of the United States Army. After threatening to blow up the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, Giles was admitted to the Veterans Administration Hospital on April 13. Giles, however, was a voluntary patient, and it was his first visit to the hospital. After many tests and examinations, the doctors determined that Giles had paranoid schizophrenia but did not conclusively establish that he was a danger to himself or others. The doctors placed Giles in an open ward that kept its doors unlocked. On April 19, Giles left the hospital without authorization, called an elopement. Giles was not considered to have escaped, because he was a voluntary patient. On April 21, Giles returned to the hospital voluntarily. At a staff meeting, it was decided that Giles would remain in the open ward and be watched more closely because the staff still felt that Giles was not a danger to himself or others. The next day, April 22, Giles left the hospital again. On April 24, William Voss was driving with Mary O’Brien. William stopped his car when he observed Giles, carrying a .22 caliber rifle, crossing the street in front of them. Giles stopped in front of the car, pointed the rifle toward the windshield, and then continued crossing the street. William started driving again but decided to turn around and look for Giles because William was worried Giles carrying a rifle in a neighborhood with children. On the way back to Giles, Mary pointed out to William that there was a police car ahead of them, and she suggested that William inform the police about Giles. However, William kept driving and stopped his car ahead of where Giles was walking. William then got out of his car and shouted to Giles, "Hey, jackoff, what are you doing pointing a fucking gun at people?” Moments later, Giles shot William, killing him. William’s wife, Eileen Voss (plaintiff), sued the United States (defendant) for William’s wrongful death under the Federal Tort Claims Act on behalf of their minor children, René LaRaine Voss (plaintiff) and Scott David Ross (plaintiff). The case was tried without a jury. The Vosses argued that William did not know Giles had eloped from the hospital and that Giles might be dangerous, and that therefore William could not have been contributorily negligent.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Nangle, J.)
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