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Disability Lawsuit Plaintiff Must Be Identified

July 31, 2015 | Posted In Personal Injury/Negligence - Personal Injury |

A student at Princeton University who has filed a disability lawsuit against the school cannot bring his lawsuit anonymously, according to a recent ruling from a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey. Thus far, the student has been identified in court documents only as W.P., but U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonaianne Bongiovanni of the District of New Jersey ruled that W.P. must now provide his full name in conjunction with his lawsuit.

W.P.’s lawsuit claims that the school failed to provide adequate accommodations for his disability after he tried to kill himself. He filed the suit in March of 2014, and has named the university and seven administrators as defendants. According to the court documents, W.P. overdosed on antidepressant pills and he alleges that the university forced him to withdraw.

After taking a year off, successful completion of psychotherapy sessions and submitting a full psychological evaluation — all in compliance with Princeton’s directives — W.P. was readmitted to the university. Now, W.P. is claiming that Princeton University and the seven named administrators denied his reasonable request for re-admittance following his overdose and demanded more from W.P. as part of his re-admittance conditions than they would for a student who had to leave due to a physical illness.

W.P. originally asked to file his lawsuit anonymously because he claimed that public attention would be embarrassing. He had previously experienced stigma and humiliation for admitting to a mental illness and feared that going public with his lawsuit would cause further relapses.

Princeton filed a memorandum in opposition, claiming that W.P.’s publicity throughout the case included an article in the New Yorker in which W.P was quoted as saying he felt “hunted” since returning to Princeton’s campus.

Bringing an Anonymous Lawsuit
There are certain scenarios where a personal injury plaintiff is permitted to file a lawsuit anonymously, especially in cases of personal or public interest, or where there are severe privacy concerns, or the plaintiff fears suffering harm as a result of his or her actions.

In this case, Judge Bongiovanni ruled that W.P. “is publically accusing Princeton University and several named individual defendants of serious wrongdoing impugning their character, integrity, and reputation….It would be fundamentally unfair to allow [a] plaintiff to accuse defendants of serious wrongdoing anonymously while forcing defendants to defend themselves publically.”

Universities and Mental Illness
W.P.’s lawsuit is at the center of a growing conversation about how colleges handle mental illness and what happens when a student needs help, or has to take a step back from education in order to get a grip on mental illnesses or disabilities. The outcome of this case will be one of the first definitive stances on how students with mental illnesses should be handled going forward.

At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we represent anyone with a need to file a personal injury lawsuit. For more information, or to discuss your case, contact a New Jersey personal injury lawyer at HCK for a free, no-strings consultation today.

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