Nanny Permitted to Proceed With Sexual Harassment/Assault Case Under Pseudonym

In Jane Doe v. John Doe,[1]Ed. note: I have modified the name of Defendant to “John Doe” in light of (yet without acknowledging any obligation imposed by) the Court’s Order dated Nov. 5, 2021, NYSCEF Doc. No. 60. 155961/2020, 2020 NY Slip Op 33766(U) (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Nov. 12, 2020), the court granted plaintiff’s motion (brought by Order to Show Cause) to proceed under a pseudonym.

In sum, plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that defendant verbally and sexually abused and raped her while plaintiff was working for defendant’s family as a nanny; she asserts claims of sexual discrimination and retaliation under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery.

The court summarized the applicable law as follows:

The determination of whether to allow a plaintiff to proceed anonymously requires the court to “use its discretion in balancing plaintiffs privacy interest against the presumption in favor of open trials and against any potential prejudice to defendant” (Anonymous v Lerner, 124 AD3d 487 citing Stevens v Brown, 2012 NY Misc LEXIS 3340, 2012 NY Slip Op 31823[U], *8-9 [Sup Ct, NY County 2012], citing Doe v Szul Jewelry, Inc., 2008 NY Misc LEXIS 8733, 2008 NY Slip Op 31382[U], * 11 [Sup Ct, NY County 2008]). Thus, the court considers the following factors: [1] [ w ]hether the justification asserted … is merely to avoid the annoyance and criticism that may attend any litigation or is to preserve privacy in a matter of a sensitive and highly personal nature; [2] whether the party seeking anonymity has an illegitimate ulterior motive; [3] the extent to which the identity of the litigant has been kept confidential; [ 4] whether identification poses a risk of mental or physical harm, harassment, ridicule, or personal embarrassment; [5] whether the case involves information of the utmost intimacy; [6] whether the action is against a governmental or private entity; [7] the magnitude of the public interest in maintaining confidentiality or knowing the party’s identity; [8] whether revealing the identity of the party will dissuade the party from bringing the lawsuit; [9] whether the opposition to anonymity has an illegitimate basis; [and] [ 1 O] [] whether the other side will be prejudiced by use of the pseudonym. (Szul, id. 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 873 3 at * 16-17).

Applying the law, the court explained:

Here, there is no question that plaintiff seeks to preserve privacy in a case of a sensitive and highly personal nature involving matters of the utmost intimacy; there is no indication that plaintiff has an illegitimate ulterior motive in seeking to preserve her privacy; plaintiffs identity has thus far been kept confidential in this matter; plaintiffs treating social worker opines that plaintiffs mental state may be adversely affected if she has to divulge her identity in this action; this action is not against a governmental agency and, thus, there is no need for increased transparency; there are no compelling factors militating in favor of the public’s need to know plaintiffs identity; plaintiff and her social worker represent that she (plaintiff) may be hesitant to proceed with this unless she proceeds under a pseudonym; and defendant has failed to establish that he would be prejudiced in plaintiff were permitted to proceed under a pseudonym.

Based on this, the court, exercising its discretion, held that plaintiff may proceed under the pseudonym Jane Doe.

1 Ed. note: I have modified the name of Defendant to “John Doe” in light of (yet without acknowledging any obligation imposed by) the Court’s Order dated Nov. 5, 2021, NYSCEF Doc. No. 60.
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