Taylor v. Phoenixville School District, No. 98-1273

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtCOWEN
Citation184 F.3d 296
Docket NumberNo. 98-1273
Decision Date18 August 1999
Parties(3rd Cir. 1999) KATHERINE L. TAYLOR, Appellant v. PHOENIXVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT

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184 F.3d 296 (3rd Cir. 1999)
KATHERINE L. TAYLOR, Appellant
v.
PHOENIXVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT
No. 98-1273
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Argued December 17, 1998
Opinion filed April 5, 1999
Panel Rehearing granted on August 18, 1999, vacating Opinion filed April 5, 1999
Filed August 18, 1999

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil No. 96-cv-08470) District Judge: Honorable J. Curtis Joyner

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Joseph A. Ryan, Esq. (Argued), 13 Paoli Court, Paoli, PA 19301, Counsel for Appellant

Michael I. Levin, Esq. (Argued), Michael I. Levin & Associates, 1800 Byberry Road, 1402 Masons Mill Business Park, Huntington Valley, PA 19006, Counsel for Appellee

Before: SLOVITER and COWEN, Circuit Judges and RODRIGUEZ,* District Judge

OPINION OF THE COURT

COWEN, Circuit Judge.

Katherine Taylor brought suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. S 12101 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. S 951 et seq., alleging that her former employer, the Phoenixville School District, failed to provide her reasonable accommodations for her mental illness. The District Court granted summary judgment for the school

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district, reasoning that Taylor's mental illness, bipolar disorder, or manic depression as it is sometimes called, did not qualify as a disability under the ADA. Alternatively, the District Court held that even if Taylor did have a disability, the only accommodation she specifically requested, transfer to another position, was not possible, and consequently, she was not an otherwise qualified individual with a disability.

In an opinion filed on April 5, 1999, we reversed the District Court's order after we concluded that Taylor's unmedicated condition demonstrated that she has a disability; we also found that she raised genuine factual disputes on whether the school district participated in good faith in the interactive process required by the ADA. When the school district sought rehearing, we held its petition until the Supreme Court announced its decisions in two then-pending cases addressing whether disabilities under the ADA are judged with or without regard to mitigating measures. The Supreme Court has now decided in Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc., 119 S.Ct. 2139 (1999) and Murphy v. United Parcel Service, 119 S.Ct. 2133 (1999) that whether a plaintiff has a disability under 42 U.S.C. S 12102(2)(A) must be evaluated taking into account any mitigating measures the plaintiff uses.

Based on these decisions, we have granted panel rehearing and vacated our prior opinion, which was reported at 174 F.3d 142. Applying the new law, we conclude that there are genuine factual disputes requiring a trial on whether Taylor's bipolar disorder substantially limits a major life activity while she is taking lithium. Because Sutton and Murphy concerned only the issue of when a plaintiff has a disability under the ADA, our previous discussion of the interactive process is unaffected; therefore, we have incorporated it unchanged in this opinion.

I

Before she was terminated on October 28, 1994, Katherine Taylor had worked for twenty years as the principal's secretary at the East Pikeland Elementary School in the Phoenixville School District. Prior to the fall of 1993, Taylor had not received a single disciplinary notice from any of the various principals she worked with over the years, and when formal evaluations were instituted in the 1991-92 school year, she received high praise.

Trouble began after Taylor suffered the onset of bipolar disorder in late August of 1993, regrettably during the first full week that a new principal, Christine Menzel, assumed her duties at East Pikeland. While Taylor was at work during that week, she began acting strangely, alarming Menzel and Linda Ferrara, the school district's administrative assistant for personnel. Menzel and Ferrara were so disturbed by Taylor's behavior that they doubted her capacity to leave on a train by herself and had someone at the school district contact her son, Mark Taylor. He soon drove his mother to Coastal Plain Hospital, a psychiatric institution in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where she was admitted as an in-patient on August 31, 1993.

Hospital records indicate that Taylor had become manic and was increasingly agitated and psychotic. According to the records, she hid herself at the train station, believing that someone was after her, and tried to disguise herself by covering her head with a scarf. On the car ride from Pennsylvania to the hospital, she was delusional and announced that the car was being escorted by state troopers and helicopters. She also claimed that her son's boss was after him and that there were many people on the highway who were "firefighters" trying to protect her. The hospital report noted that she did not have any insight into the severity of her condition and believed she was being admitted due to "acute stress." The school district's own expert, Dr. Rieger, agreed that during Taylor's hospitalization, she "clearly had

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paranoid delusions" and was hyperactive and psychotic.

Taylor was treated by two psychiatrists at the hospital who diagnosed her illness as bipolar disorder and treated her with lithium carbonate and an antipsychotic drug, Navane, when lithium alone was insufficient. Once her symptoms were brought under control by the combination of drugs, she was discharged on September 20, 1993, and her care was taken over by Dr. Louise Sonnenberg, a psychiatrist in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Since her discharge from the hospital, Taylor has continued to take lithium, see Dr. Sonnenberg, and receive the necessary, periodic blood tests.1

Taylor's son stated in an affidavit that during his mother's leave of absence, he had numerous phone conversations with Ferrara in which he explained that his mother would be absent from work because she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and required hospitalization. Mark Taylor also asserted in his affidavit that during a phone call on October 8, one week before his mother resumed working, he told Ferrara that due to his mother's bipolar disorder, she "would require accommodations when she returned to work." The affidavit adds that he provided Ferrara with the information he received from Taylor's doctors "including diagnosis and treatment information and medications." Coastal Plain Hospital itself sent a letter to the school district on September 13, 1993, identifying one of Taylor's physicians and providing a phone number to address any additional questions the school district might have.

According to Taylor, Ferrara did eventually contact one of her treating physicians. Ferrara's own handwritten notes show that she attempted to obtain copies of Taylor's records from Coastal Plain Hospital and planned to speak to at least one of Taylor's doctors. The school district had other contact with her doctors because before Taylor was permitted to return to work, the school district required her to submit a note from Dr. Sonnenberg saying that Taylor was no longer disabled. Even prior to Mark Taylor's October 8th phone call, Ferrara sent a letter to the school district's superintendent, stating that:

Mrs. Taylor has been released from the Coastal Plain Hospital in North Carolina and her son will be picking her up this coming weekend to bring her back to Pennsylvania. She will be receiving out-patient care in Phoenixville through the Phoenixville Psychiatric Associates. They will monitor her Blood Lithium[sic] levels. It was stressed that she must maintain and continue her medication. He felt, as well as the doctor, that the first week should be easing her transition back into the work place.

App. vol. I at 80.

A notation on the letter indicates that a copy was forwarded to Menzel. She submitted

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an affidavit, however, denying that she saw the memo and asserting that "I did not learn the specifics of the Plaintiff's alleged condition (i.e., bipolar disorder) until after reading a newspaper article describing her filing of the current lawsuit." App. vol. II at 2. Ferrara has also submitted an affidavit asserting that "at no time was I or anyone else at the School District aware of Plaintiff's alleged diagnosis of bipolar disorder or the details or frequency of any treatments she may have been receiving after returning from Coastal Plain until after the current lawsuit was filed." App. vol. II at 50.

After Taylor provided the note from Dr. Sonnenberg, she resumed work on October 15, 1993 although, as Ferrara's letter indicated, Taylor was only authorized to work half days for the first week. Prior to her hospitalization, Taylor had received high praise for her performance. In June of 1993, about two months before her hospitalization, the outgoing principal, Dr. Herron, wrote that Taylor "excels in all aspects" of her job, was a "credit to our school," and "a tribute to excellence." App. vol. I at 86. In a subsequent letter of recommendation, Dr. Herron again praised her performance without reservation:

As a secretary, Mrs. Taylor served me and the entire school family exceeding[ly] well. . . . I felt comfortable in leaving the building, sometimes for an extended amount of time, because of Mrs. Taylor's skills. Indeed, at such times, Mrs. Taylor carried on the full functions of the school as if she herself was capable of running the functions of the building without supervision, and, indeed, in such cases, she was entirely capable of doing so.

App. vol. I at 87.

Almost immediately upon Taylor's return to work, Menzel, following Ferrara's advice, began documenting errors Taylor committed. The errors were then compiled into a...

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947 practice notes
  • Concepcion v. Morton, No. CIV.A.98-3681(MLC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • December 21, 2000
    ...The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296, 305 Page 116 Cir.1999) (citations omitted). Once the moving party has satisfied this initial burden, the opposing party must establish tha......
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. C.R. England Inc., Nos. 09–4207
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • May 3, 2011
    ...” it “nonetheless must make clear that the employee wants assistance for his or her disability.” Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296, 313 (3d Cir.1999) (emphasis added). That is, “the employer must know of both the disability and the employee's desire for accommodations for that......
  • Boston Housing Authority v. Bridgewaters, SJC-10107
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • January 7, 2009
    ...or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service because of a disability." (Emphasis added.) Cf. Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296 (3d Cir.1999) (where employee became psychotic at work due to her bipolar condition, and employer knew she had been hospitalized for three we......
  • Feldman v. Law Enforcement Associates Corp.., No. 5:10–CV–08–BR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • March 10, 2011
    ...accommodation.’ ” Parkinson v. Anne Arundel Med. Ctr., 79 Fed.Appx. 602, 604–05 (4th Cir.2003) (quoting Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296, 313 (3d Cir.1999)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In this case, while Perry himself did not specifically request a reasonable accommo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
947 cases
  • Concepcion v. Morton, No. CIV.A.98-3681(MLC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • December 21, 2000
    ...The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296, 305 Page 116 Cir.1999) (citations omitted). Once the moving party has satisfied this initial burden, the opposing party must establish tha......
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. C.R. England Inc., Nos. 09–4207
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • May 3, 2011
    ...” it “nonetheless must make clear that the employee wants assistance for his or her disability.” Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296, 313 (3d Cir.1999) (emphasis added). That is, “the employer must know of both the disability and the employee's desire for accommodations for that......
  • Boston Housing Authority v. Bridgewaters, SJC-10107
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • January 7, 2009
    ...or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service because of a disability." (Emphasis added.) Cf. Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296 (3d Cir.1999) (where employee became psychotic at work due to her bipolar condition, and employer knew she had been hospitalized for three we......
  • Feldman v. Law Enforcement Associates Corp.., No. 5:10–CV–08–BR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • March 10, 2011
    ...accommodation.’ ” Parkinson v. Anne Arundel Med. Ctr., 79 Fed.Appx. 602, 604–05 (4th Cir.2003) (quoting Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296, 313 (3d Cir.1999)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In this case, while Perry himself did not specifically request a reasonable accommo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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