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Lear v. Borough of Brentwood

November 21, 2006

RONALD J. LEAR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOROUGH OF BRENTWOOD, OFFICER MILTON MULHOLLAND, III, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

On February 23, 2006, this court issued a memorandum opinion that, among other things, granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Officer Milton Mulholland ("Mulholland" or "defendant") with respect to the claim of Ronald J. Lear's ("Lear" or "plaintiff") against defendant arising from his involuntary commitment under the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act ("MHPA"), 50 PA. STAT. ANN. § 7101 et. seq. (West 2001). Plaintiff filed a motion requesting, among other things, that the court reconsider its decision with respect to that finding. The court had granted summary judgment on that claim by reason of its finding that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity.

On March 3, 2006, the court held a status conference and heard argument on plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. The court granted the motion with respect to the narrow issue whether defendant was entitled to qualified immunity with regard to plaintiff's claim arising from his involuntary commitment under the MHPA. The court permitted defendant to file a renewed motion for summary judgment raising that issue. On March 16, 2006, defendant filed a renewed motion for summary judgment asserting that he is entitled to qualified immunity with respect to plaintiff's claim under the MHPA and alternatively that he is entitled to immunity under the provisions of the MHPA.

In this memorandum order, the court considers the renewed motion for summary judgment filed by defendant. (Doc. No. 61). After considering the joint statement of material facts, the motion and the submissions of the parties, the court will deny defendant's motion.

Factual Background

On July 21, 2002, law enforcement was summoned to East Garden Street, Brentwood, Pennsylvania. Joint Concise Statement of Material Facts ("J.S.") ¶ 1. Law enforcement responded to the emergency telephone call of Laura Schmidt ("Laura Schmidt"). J.S. ¶ 2. She stated:

This is Laura Schmidt at 421 East Garden. My neighbor is carrying on and he is out on the front street with a gun. I don't know what kind it is, but it's a gun.

Id. Laura Schmidt identified her neighbor, Lear, as carrying "a big handgun." Id. ¶ 3. Police dispatch reported to defendant that "there was a man out of the front street with a gun, a handgun in his hand" and that the person carrying the handgun is someone "who lives right next door to this address -- he lives at 423." Id. ¶ 4. Defendant arrived at the location within a minute of receiving the dispatch. Id. ¶ 5. Upon arrival, defendant exited his patrol vehicle and scanned the scene on foot. Id. ¶ 6.

The parties dispute whether defendant first spoke to Laura Schmidt or approached plaintiff's house. Id. ¶ 6.

Mulholland testified that Laura Schmidt was "quite upset and emotional" at witnessing plaintiff screaming while carrying a handgun. Id. ¶ 7. Mulholland also testified that another neighbor, Betty Couch ("Couch") informed him that she "did indeed see [plaintiff] out in front" with a handgun. Id. While Mulholland testified to those facts, plaintiff referenced the deposition testimony of Laura. Schmidt and Couch to dispute those facts. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Specifically, plaintiff quoted the testimony of Laura Schmidt that she did not speak with defendant until after Lear's arrest and Couch's testimony, among other things, that the gun in Lear's possession looked like a toy gun and that she did not hear Lear screaming at the Schmidts.

The parties also dispute what occurred after plaintiff exited his home. Id. ¶ 8. Defendant claims that plaintiff was returned to his home in the company of officers and plaintiff, in conversing with defendant, told him that he took his pellet gun outside to scare his neighbors. Id.

¶ 8. Plaintiff disputes those facts and denies making the statement that he took his gun outside to scare his neighbors. Id.

The parties further dispute the facts of the conversation between plaintiff and defendant. Id. ¶ 9. Mulholland testified that plaintiff told him that his neighbors, the Schmidts, had damaged his driveway. Id. Mulholland testified that he observed plaintiff, agitated and upset, rocking back and forth, and stating, "I'm going to fix my neighbors." Id. Mulholland testified that plaintiff was still visibly upset, that he was rocking, and moving his feet. Id. ¶ 10. Finally, Mulholland testified that plaintiff's manner went from calm to "visibly distraught" in a matter of two minutes. Id. Plaintiff denies those facts relating to defendant's discussion with plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Specifically, plaintiff testified in his deposition that he was quiet and did not say he was "going to fix my neighbors." Id. at ¶ 9. Carole Lear, plaintiff's wife, also testified that Lear was quiet. Id. at ¶ 10.

Mulholland further testified that, upon speaking with plaintiff, he reviewed plaintiff's driveway for signs of damage. Id. ¶ 11. He testified that he found no damage of any kind. Id. Plaintiff disputes the fact that there was no damage to the driveway. Id. Plaintiff refers to the deposition testimony of Couch that there was a substance on Lear's driveway and Carole Lear's testimony to the same effect. Id.

The parties also dispute what occurred when Mulholland returned to plaintiff's residence. Mulholland testified that he returned to plaintiff's residence and learned that a pellet gun had been retrieved. Id. ΒΆ 12. Plaintiff disputes this fact and refers to his deposition testimony that plaintiff told defendant he had been carrying a pellet gun when he first returned to his house. Id. Mulholland also testified that plaintiff told him that he could not "take this anymore" in reference to an ongoing ...


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