Filing Under a Pseudonym
Reported cases from Pennsylvania demonstrate that privacy plaintiffs can bring actions as Doe, and in case the court does discuss some factors for determining if pseudonymity is appropriate. Analogies could be drawn to the facts in the following cases that implicate a need for privacy in plaintiff’s identity:
- Doe v. Zarkin, No. 5383 S 1996, 1998 WL 1093460 (Pa. D. & C.4th 1998) – Female Does sue for invasion of privacy and emotional distress stemming from a male co-employee who created a peephole to watch women use the women’s restroom. The court notes: “This case is a sensitive matter and the embarrassing, humiliating circumstances warrant the need for privacy.” Id. at *4. Defendant argued that PA.R.C.P. No. 1024 did not permit a fictitious name; however, the court noted the rule didn’t forbid fictitious names, and the defendant was not prejudiced as he knew the identity of the plaintiffs. Due to a split between two members of the panel in the absence of caselaw on point, the court decided that the records would be sealed but signed by the plaintiff’s true names.
- Doe v. Johns-Manville Corp., 15 Pa. D. & C.3d 135, 1980 WL 616 (Pa. D. & C.3d 1980) – Doe sues employer for increased risk of asbestosis from his employment. Defendant objected to pseudonym, inter alia, and court sustains, as any adverse consequences to Doe are insufficient. Court notes federal cases with pseudonyms.
- Doe v. Wyoming Valley Health Care System, Inc., 987 A.2d 758 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2009) – Doe, employee of Defendant, was involved in union activities and brought suit for invasion of privacy after employer's agent disclosed portions of employee's record for job performance at an NLRB hearing. The court merely notes the use of the pseudonym.
- Doe v. Curran, No. 97-CV-3636, 2000 WL 1283063 (Pa. D. & C.4th 2000) – Doe is patient of Defendant, a doctor, who initiates a sexual relationship and rape of Doe. No discussion of use of pseudonym.
- Application of Milton S. Hershey Medical Center of Pennsylvania State University, 634 A.2d 159 (Pa. 1993) – Dr. Doe appeals decision of Medical Board to allow limited disclosure of his HIV positive status to his employer, a hospital. No discussion of pseudonym.
Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records
It provides in pertinent part that “[t]he caption of a complaint shall set forth . . . the names of all the parties . . . .”
PA. R.C.P. No. 1024: Verification of Pleading
“(a) Every pleading containing an averment of fact not appearing of record in the action or containing a denial of fact shall state that the averment or denial is true upon the signer's personal knowledge or information and belief and shall be verified. . . .”
Opinions are available and searchable from the last ninety days online, at http://www.courts.state.pa.us/T/Commonwealth/CommonwealthOpinions.htm (last visited Apr. 20, 2010).
42 PA. CON. STAT. § 6307 (2010) keeps juvenile court records confidential to some degree.
35 PA. STAT. ANN. § 7608 (2010) provides for confidentiality of records relating to HIV infection, and (d) allows for a pseudonym for an infected individual in court records.