Practice Areas

Widow sues Tripler over veteran's suicide

Vol. 12, Issue 347 - Thursday, December 13, 2007

By Alexandre Da Silva
adasilva@starbulletin.com

The widow of an Air Force veteran who jumped from the 10th floor of Tripler Army Medical Center is suing the U.S. government for his death.

The medical malpractice suit, filed last Thursday in U.S. District Court, claims the staff at the hospital ignored the suicidal thoughts of retired Master Sgt. Robert Roth, 50, who worked as a clerk in the records section, said attorney Rick Fried, who is representing Roth's widow, Satsuki Roth.

Tripler, in a short statement, said, "The case will be vigorously defended."

Roth died Jan. 2, about two weeks after he warned doctors he wanted to leap from the top of the hospital or the Makapuu cliffs, according to an internal criminal investigation by the Army.

On Dec. 16, 2006, Roth, of Sioux Falls, S.D., had to "wait several hours" to see an assistant psychiatrist who later released him, saying "he appeared to be OK to go home," the Army report said.

Ten days later, Roth stormed out of the hospital against medical advice after experiencing another long wait caused by the emergency room having only one doctor during the Christmas holiday, it said.

"Twice he basically came to the emergency room, and they ignored him," Fried said yesterday. "He came with a backpack to be admitted."

On Jan. 2, Roth had a doctor's appointment but found the hospital closed because of the federal holiday observing President Gerald Ford's death. He got into the building through an emergency door that had its alarm turned off by other workers, walked up to the 10th floor and plunged 89 feet, landing on a web of air-conditioner pipes.

The suit will seek monetary damages that would be used to care for Satsuki Roth, 47; Robert Roth's 74-year-old mother, Joyce Ulmer; and his 23-year-old son, William Roth, Fried said.