United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on numerous ex parte
motions filed by Plaintiff in the beginning stages of this
action. No. defendant has been served or appeared and
summonses were only recently issued on November 6, 2019. The
Court resolves the various pending motions as provided below.
InnoGames created an online video game known as “Forge
of Empires.” Dkt. #3 at 6. Plaintiff, using the moniker
“TwoCents, ” played Forge of Empires
“almost every day without interruption from 2016-2019
for over 10, 000 hours of game play.” Id.
Plaintiff alleges that InnoGames knew that players could get
psychologically dependent or addicted to its game, did not
warn players of that risk, and instead exploited players with
“micro-transactions.” Id. at 8. Plaintiff
alleges that she became addicted to the game and spent over
$9, 000 on micro-transactions to “keep up” with
players she believes were cheating. Id. at 10.
appears to have had unpleasant social interactions and
experiences while playing the game and attributes those
experiences to the defendants. Plaintiff believes that
InnoGames's advertising for the game “created an
unsafe environment for women players, ” such as
herself. Id. at 6-7. Plaintiff alleges that she
suffered harassment and that InnoGames did little to prevent
the harassment, even after she raised the issue directly.
Id. at 7-8. Rather, Plaintiff alleges that InnoGames
and its employees enforced the rules unfairly and targeted
her for harsher enforcement. Id. at 9. Plaintiff
alleges that these actions were at least partly because of
her gender. Id. at 11.
of her experiences, Plaintiff alleges that “she has
suffered extreme and serious emotional distress and
depression, she has been unable to function independently,
she has suffered psychological trauma, she has emotional
symptoms of depression, anxiety, [and] thoughts of
suicide.” Id. at 12. Plaintiff asserts claims
against InnoGames, its Chief Executive Officer, its Chief
Operating Officer, and two of its “community
managers” (collectively, “Defendants”).
Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff ultimately seeks recovery for
physical and emotional damages, loss of reputation, economic
harms, and violations of consumer protection laws.
Id. at 12-13.
Plaintiff's Request to Proceed Under a Pseudonym
seeks to proceed under the pseudonym “TwoCents”
to conceal her identity from everyone but the Court and
Defendants. Dkt. #5 at 1. The request is based on the ongoing
harassment Plaintiff has faced in Forge of Empires and her
“fear that if her identity becomes known to her
harassers they will escalate their behavior including
potentially physical violence.” Id. at 1-2.
a party to pursue legal proceedings anonymously is unusual as
it interferes with the public's strong common law right
of access to judicial proceedings and conflicts with Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 10. Does I thru XXIII v. Advanced
Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1067 (9th Cir. 2000);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a) (specifying that “[t]he title of the
complaint must name all the parties”). “[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.
Does I thru XXIII, 214 F.3d at 1068. Anonymity has
generally been permitted: “(1) when identification
creates a risk of retaliatory physical or mental harm; (2)
when anonymity is necessary ‘to preserve privacy in a
matter of sensitive and highly personal nature;' and (3)
when the anonymous party is ‘compelled to admit [his or
her] intention to engage in illegal conduct.'”
Id. (alteration in original) (internal citations
omitted). When determining the need for anonymity to protect
from harm, courts look to: “(1) the severity of the
threatened harm; (2) the reasonableness of the anonymous
party's fears; and (3) the anonymous party's
vulnerability to such retaliation.” Id.
(internal citations omitted).
Use of a Pseudonym Is Not Warranted
Court does not find that Plaintiff has carried her burden
here. Plaintiff does not seek to shield her identity from
Defendants, focusing the Court's consideration on
Plaintiff's need for anonymity and any prejudice to the
public's interest. Plaintiff identifies her own potential
harm as the risk of retaliation and intrusion into her
privacy, but Plaintiff largely ignores any prejudice to the
concerns over retaliation stem from the allegations of past
harassment within Forge of Empires as she lays out in her
Complaint. Dkt. #5 at 3. But, to the extent Plaintiff has
provided any competent evidence through her motions and
unverified Complaint, the Court finds the potential for harm
is overly speculative. Plaintiff certainly may face
further harassment, but Plaintiff does not establish a reason
to believe that such harassment is likely to occur.
also expresses a need for privacy to protect her personal
reputation and her future professional
reputation. Plaintiff's concerns in this regard
arise primarily from an incident occurring within Forge of
Empires where she shared a revealing photo that was
subsequently spread within the community. Id. at 3;
Dkt. #3 at 7. But Plaintiff's privacy concerns are again
is a strong presumption of public access to the court's
files.” LCR 5(g); Nixon v. Warner Communications,
Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 598-99 (1978); EEOC v. Erection
Co., Inc., 900 F.2d 168, 169 (9th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff
is correct that the public will be afforded access to the
proceedings in this matter because she limits her request to
protection only of her identity. Dkt. #5 at 3. While this
limits the prejudice to the public's interest, it does
not establish that “the circumstances here are
extraordinary enough to warrant her use of a
pseudonym.” D.C. v. PierceCnty., No.
C10-5246RJB, 2010 WL 3814051, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 27,
2010) (denying request to use pseudonym in a case alleging
that defendant's law enforcement officer photographed
plaintiff's genitals and posted the picture on a law
enforcement website and noting that “[m]uch of what is
litigated involves embarrassment for one party or
another”). Moreover, the Court finds that while the
nature of Plaintiff's photograph may be embarrassing, it
is only a small aspect of her lawsuit and the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure provide other, less ...