Filing Pseudonymously: Tennessee


  1. Tennessee
  1. Tennessee

    1. Caselaw

      Tennessee reported cases give an example of why a court allows a plaintiff to proceed under a pseudonym, and under what circumstances a pseudonym cannot be used. The following three cases provide facts to which to analogize and to distinguish when attempting to proceed pseudonymously:

      • Campbell v. Sundquist, 926 S.W.2d 250 (Tenn. App. 1996) – Doe plaintiffs are gay and challenge Tennessee’s Homosexual Practices Act, which criminalizes homosexual sex, under Tennessee’s constitutional right to privacy. Does fear eviction and/or being fired if their sexual orientation is revealed, not to mention that they could face criminal charges under the Tennessee statute. The court notes that the trial court allowed the identity of the Does to be placed under seal due to these fears. Id. at 253 n.1.

      • Doe v. HCA Health Services of Tennessee, Inc., 46 S.W.3d 191 (Tenn. 2001) – Doe sues hospital regarding no-payment for services she received not covered by her insurance. The court notes: “The trial court permitted the plaintiffs to use pseudonyms because “Mrs. Doe” is employed in a physician's office, and she feared that public disclosure of her identity might subject her employer to retaliation and/or embarrassment. No issue has been raised on appeal concerning the trial court's decision to allow the plaintiffs to prosecute this action under pseudonyms.” Id. at 194 n.1.

      • Vafaie v. Owens, No. 92C-1642, 1996 WL 502133 (Tenn. App. 1996) – The court notes the procedural posture: Plaintiff first brought suit as Jane Doe, alleging emotional distress, inter alia, from Defendants’ attempt to extort her to pay debts using the threat of publication of photos and videos of Plaintiff and a Defendant having sex. Defendants moved to dismiss, in part for failure to name a party under Tennessee rules of civil procedure. The trial court ordered the Plaintiff to substitute her real name after a hearing. She amended the complaint with her true name, and in the instant matter appealed summary judgment for Defendants.

      Other cases tacitly allow Doe plaintiffs in several contexts:

      • HIV infection: see Estate of Doe v. Vanderbilt University, Inc., 958 S.W.2d 117 (Tenn. App. 1997) (Doe contracted HIV from blood transfusion; infected her newborn in utero, both die of AIDS; no discussion of pseudonym).

      • Challenge to sex offender status: see Doe v. State, Dept. Of Children's Services, No. E2008-00511-COA-R3-CV, 2009 WL 17851 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009) (Doe is autistic and a juvenile sex offender challenging listing; no discussion of pseudonym).

      • Sexual assault of adults: see Doe v. Linder Const. Co., Inc., 845 S.W.2d 173 (Tenn. 1992) (Jane Doe raped in her home after superintendent’s key copy to her home stolen); Doe v. Board of Educ. of Memphis City Schools, 799 S.W.2d 246 (Tenn. App. 1990) (Jane Doe is teacher raped at her workplace on a teachers’ prep day).

      • Sexual molestation of minors: see, e.g., Doe v. Goodwin, 254 S.W.3d 428 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007) (John Doe raped by teacher at school); Doe v. Mama Taori's Premium Pizza, LLC, No. M1998-00992-COA-R9-CV, 2001 WL 327906 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001) (noting pseudonym where minor teenage Doe begins homosexual relationship with adult coworker).

    2. Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records

      TENN. R. CIV. P. 10.01 (2010): Caption – Names of parties

      “. . . In the complaint the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties . . . .”

      Supreme Court opinions are available online dating back to 1995 at (last visited Apr. 20, 2010).

    3. Relevant Statutes

      • TENN. CODE ANN. § 37-1-153 (2010): juvenile court records are available only to limited classes of people.
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