Two defendants in a federal antibias lawsuit filed by an HIV-positive woman have opposed her request to litigate anonymously.
“Bonnie Jones,” 40, an Iraq War veteran claims she was denied access to a therapeutic swimming pool at OSS Orthopaedic Hospital in York.
The named defendants are the hospital, Drayer Physical Therapy Institute and Timothy Burch. The hospital performs orthopedic surgeries and Drayer operates its physical-therapy program. Burch is a physical therapist affiliated with the hospital and/or Drayer.
In June 2015, Burch allegedly denied Jones access to the hospital’s therapeutic pool because Jones is HIV-positive.
Last month, Jones filed suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, seeking an unspecified amount in damages, among other remedies.
She also filed a request to litigate under a pseudonym.
“[Jones] has a reasonable fear that widespread knowledge of her
HIV status might lead to further stigma and discrimination against her,” the June 24 request states, adding that Jones isn’t being unreasonable in her request for anonymity.
The hospital doesn’t oppose Jones’ request to litigate anonymously.
But on July 1, attorneys for Drayer and Burch filed a brief in opposition to the request to litigate anonymously. “[Jones’] fear of severe harm is not reasonable,” the brief states.
According to the brief, Jones filed three complaints stemming from the alleged incident with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, using her legal name.
“[Jones] contends that a pseudonym is necessary because using her full name would disclose her HIV-positive status. She has already done so in the Pennsylvania administrative litigation alleging facts virtually identical to this case, thereby waiving her right to anonymity. [Jones] suggests that if she is not permitted to proceed under pseudonym, she may not be willing to proceed with this lawsuit. The claims asserted by [Jones] are meritless and defendants will defend this case.”
Attorneys argued in the brief that no injustice will occur if Jones is publicly identified.
“[Jones] assertion that ‘it would be a gross injustice if defendants’ discriminatory [conduct] remains unaddressed because [Jones] could not proceed under pseudonym’ is a misstatement because the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has been addressing identical allegations without a pseudonym. Clearly, no injustice will occur.”
The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, which represents Jones, will reply to the brief by July 15, said Ronda B. Goldfein, executive director of the agency.
Goldfein said many people had their lives ruined because of stigma related to their HIV-positive status.
“At the heart of this claim is a complete insensitivity to this woman and her HIV status,” Goldfein told PGN. “So to make an allegation that she faces no harm if her identity is known is a continuation of that lack of sensitivity and understanding.”
Attorneys for Drayer and Burch couldn’t be reached for comment.