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Haberle v. Nazareth

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

August 29, 2019

NICOLE HABERLE, As Administratrix for the Estate of Timothy Nixon Deceased, Appellant
v.
BOROUGH OF NAZARETH

          Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) on April 18, 2019

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil No. 5-15-cv-02804) District Judge: Honorable Joseph F. Leeson, Jr.

          Joseph E. Welsh Lauer & Fulmer Counsel for Appellant

          Rufus A. Jennings John P. Morgenstern Deasey Mahoney & Valentini Counsel for Appellee

          Before: AMBRO, GREENAWAY, JR., and SCIRICA, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SCIRICA, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Nicole Haberle's long-time partner Timothy Nixon suffered from severe mental illness. Nixon committed suicide during an encounter with the Borough of Nazareth Police Department, and Haberle sued the Borough. She alleged that the Police Department's failure to accommodate mentally disabled individuals constituted a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and sought money damages.

         Haberle's challenge is before us for a second time. The District Court had previously dismissed her complaint, which raised the ADA claim and several constitutional claims. We affirmed in part the District Court's dismissal, but remanded with instructions to provide Haberle leave to amend her ADA complaint. After Haberle filed an amended complaint, the District Court dismissed it for failure to allege intentional discrimination. Because Haberle's complaint raises a plausible claim that the Police Department was deliberately indifferent in failing to enact policies accommodating mental disability, we will reverse and remand.

         I.

         We have previously described the facts as follows:

Timothy Nixon suffered from a variety of mental health problems, including depression. For years, he had lived off and on with his longtime partner, Ms. Haberle, and their two children. On May 20, 2013, he had "a serious mental health episode involving severe depression." He called Haberle and told her that he was suicidal, and then broke into a friend's home and took a handgun. He next went to his cousin's apartment.
Fearing for Nixon's life, Haberle contacted the Borough of Nazareth Police Department. Officer Daniel Troxell obtained a warrant for Nixon's arrest, and, having learned that Nixon was still at his cousin's apartment, Troxell went there, accompanied by other officers from the Borough and surrounding municipalities. Upon arriving at the apartment, some of the officers suggested setting up a perimeter and asking the Pennsylvania State Police to send crisis negotiators. Others suggested asking Haberle to help communicate with Nixon. Troxell rebuffed those suggestions, calling the other officers "a bunch of f[-]ing p[-]sies." He declared his intention to immediately go to the apartment, because "[t]his is how we do things in Nazareth." He did as he said, knocked on the door of the apartment, and identified himself as a police officer. Nixon then promptly went into one of the bedrooms of the apartment and turned the stolen gun on himself.

Haberle v. Troxell (Haberle I), 885 F.3d 170, 174 (3d Cir. 2018) (internal citations omitted, alterations in original).

         Haberle sued the Borough of Nazareth, several members of its Police Department including Officer Troxell, and other Borough officials (collectively, defendants). She claimed that Nixon's suicide was the foreseeable result of Officer Troxell's decision to unconstitutionally seize Nixon in violation of the Fourth Amendment; Officer Troxell's actions constituted a "state-created danger" in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause; and the Borough's failure to implement police procedures to accommodate disabled individuals violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 ...


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