United States District Court, D. Utah
K.H.B. by and through his father, K.D.B., individually, and on behalf of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
UNITEDHEALTHCARE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO
PERMIT PLAINTIFF TO PROCEED UNDER PSEUDONYM AND GRANTING IN
PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO FILE UNDER SEAL
WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
ERISA action, plaintiff moves to permit plaintiff and
plaintiff's father to proceed under pseudonyms. Plaintiff
also moves to file under seal the unredacted declaration of
plaintiff's father. For the reasons explained below, both
motions are Granted in part and
Denied in part.
K.H.B. suffers from severe mental health and substance abuse
conditions. In 2016, plaintiff was hospitalized due to a
second attempt to commit suicide. Plaintiff subsequently
enrolled in a wilderness recovery program in Utah. As
plaintiff was a minor at the time, his health insurance
coverage was provided through his father, K.D.B.
Plaintiff's father's insurance provider declined to
cover the wilderness program. Following an extended
administrative appeals process, plaintiff's father
brought this ERISA action on plaintiff's behalf against
plaintiff's father's insurance provider - defendant
United Healthcare, seeking coverage for the Utah wilderness
program (Dkt. No. 34 at 2).
now moves for an order permitting both plaintiff and
plaintiff's father to litigate this case using their
initials as pseudonyms and directing all parties to redact
their names and all personally identifying information (such
as addresses and social security numbers) from any publically
filed documents. In addition, plaintiff moves to file under
seal the unredacted declaration of plaintiff's father.
requires that “the title of the complaint must name all
the parties.” This rule reflects the “paramount
importance of open courts” such that the “default
presumption is that plaintiffs will use their true
names.” Doe v. Kamehameha Sch./Bernice Pauahi
Bishop Estate, 596 F.3d 1036, 1046 (9th Cir. 2010). In
this circuit, parties may use pseudonyms in unusual cases
when nondisclosure of the party's identity is necessary
“to protect a person from harassment, injury, ridicule
or personal embarrassment.” Does I thru XXIII v.
Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1067-68 (9th Cir.
2000) (quoting United States v. Doe, 655 F.2d 920,
922 n.1 (9th Cir. 1981)). Moreover, a “party may
preserve his or her anonymity in judicial proceedings in
special circumstances when the party's need for anonymity
outweighs prejudice to the opposing party and the
public's interest in knowing the party's
identity.” Id. at 1068.
brings this action as an adult, causing previously private
facts to become public. Beyond the present harms to
plaintiff's privacy interest, plaintiff fears potential
future harms of social stigma and psychological trauma (Dkt.
No. 33 at 3). When plaintiff was still a minor, he had more
than one suicide attempt, was diagnosed with several mental
illnesses, and had issues with substance abuse (Dkt. No. 34
at 1-2). The extremity of these facts coupled with the verity
that the facts underlying this action occurred when plaintiff
was a minor, creates an interest for plaintiff that this
history should not follow plaintiff for the rest of his life.
Moreover, defendant does not oppose the use of a pseudonym
(Dkt. No. 33 at 4).
plaintiff is no longer a minor (Dkt. No. 33 at 2), and so the
heightened anonymity protections automatically applicable to
minors do not apply here, plaintiff still has a strong
interest in anonymizing these proceedings. Moreover, a denial
here would incentivize insurance providers to implement a
business strategy that tilts towards denying socially
stigmatizing claims, forcing claimants to litigate the
stigmatizing claims publically or elect to not pursue
recovery. Justice does not warrant such a conclusion.
plaintiffs motion to permit plaintiff to proceed under
pseudonym is Granted in part and Denied in
part. Plaintiff may proceed under his initials.
Plaintiff s father may proceed under his full first name and
last initial, but may not proceed under his initials.
Pursuant to Local Rule 79-5(b), “no document may be
filed under seal . . . except pursuant to a court order that
authorizes the sealing of the particular document, or
portions thereof.” Accordingly, a specific court order
is required each time plaintiff seeks to redact personal
information going forward.
motion to file under seal the unredacted declaration of
plaintiff s father is Granted as to
plaintiffs father's last name and signature, but
Denied as to plaintiffs father's first