In some personal injury claims, the plaintiff may wish for his or her identity to be hidden from the defendant. Traditionally, personal injury lawsuits are a matter of public record and are published as such. However, there may be a special circumstance that requires the plaintiff’s name to be kept from the record. In this case, the plaintiff’s name would not be reported; instead, he or she would be referred to as “John Doe” or “Jane Doe.”
When Can a Plaintiff Sue Anonymously?
If there is a heavy interest in the plaintiff’s identity being kept secret, and the secrecy will not affect the defendant, then the courts may grant an anonymous application. However, it is up to the presiding judge to decide if the plaintiff can be listed anonymously on the complaint.
There are several factors that the courts will consider when allowing a plaintiff to remain anonymous. These factors include:
- If the plaintiff is seeking anonymity because it is an inconvenience for the case to be in public records, or if the plaintiff truly does have highly sensitive information that must be kept secret from the public.
- If the disclosure would create a risk for retaliation against the plaintiff from the defendant or associated parties.
- If there is an unfair risk to the defense.
- How old the plaintiff is (minors are granted anonymity more often than adults).
The courts will also consider other factors that are relevant to that case.
The Risk for Retaliation: Does It Have to be Physical?
Any risk to the plaintiff is considered serious, but it does not have to be limited to physical risk. Social and economic dangers are also considered by the courts when determining if a plaintiff can file anonymously.
If the plaintiff’s claim would threaten his or her social standing, the courts may grant the use of an anonymous identity. For example, the plaintiff’s sexuality or pregnancy would be made public; therefore, the courts would grant anonymity.
Lawsuits against the government, which may result in criminal charges, may be filed anonymously. There are also crimes, such as incest, that may force the courts to hide the plaintiff’s identity to prevent any retaliation.
Threats of public hostility or embarrassment are not considered threats by the court. Also, the threat of losing a job is not a worthwhile threat. A person’s job is protected by employment and labor laws; therefore, the courts will act once the employee is terminated for retaliation.
When Defendants May Oppose the Anonymity
Defendants may oppose the plaintiff’s request, because they do have a constitutional right to face their accuser. To face the accuser, the defendant would need to know their identity. Also, anonymous lawsuits are considered a violation of procedural law, which is used to enforce a defendant’s right to due process.
Do You Wish to Remain Anonymously? Speak to a CT Attorney
Connecticut courts have granted anonymous lawsuits in the past. Therefore, if you feel that you have a valid reason for hiding your identity in your personal injury lawsuit, you must enlist the help of a personal injury attorney. An attorney can present your case to the judge to prove that your reasons are justified.