When does a confidentiality provision in a settlement agreement mean what it says? What if you tell your children about your confidential settlement and they post about it on Facebook? Well, here is what just might happen:
Patrick Snay’s daughter cost him $80,000 when she posted about his lawsuit settlement on Facebook. On February 26, the Third District Court of Appeals ruled that Snay’s $80,000 discrimination settlement with his former employer Gulliver Preparatory School was null and void because his daughter breached the terms of the non-disclosure clause when she broadcast the settlement on social media.
In 2010, Snay, now 69, sued Gulliver for age discrimination and retaliation when the school decided not to renew Snay’s employment contract. Gulliver settled the case in November of 2011 and agreed to pay Snay $80,000. Central to the settlement agreement was a detailed confidentiality provision, which provided that the existence and terms of the agreement between Snay and the school were to be kept strictly confidential, and that if Snay or his wife should breach the confidentiality provision, the $80,000 settlement proceeds would be void.
Despite the terms of the confidentiality provision, Snay immediately told his daughter that the case had settled. She, in turn, took to social media to announce the news to her 1,200 Facebook friends, many of whom are current and former Gulliver students:
“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver,” she wrote. “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
The news made its way back to Gulliver’s attorneys. Four days after the deal was signed, Gulliver notified Snay that the school would not be paying any of the settlement money. Snay initially won an order to enforce the agreement, but the Court of Appeals tossed out the $80,000 settlement last week. “Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do,” Judge Linda Ann Wells wrote. “His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent.” Read the full opinion here.
This case is a reminder that Facebook – and other forms of social networking sites – are making an increasingly significant mark on the world of litigation. Any information posted by a user, and even information posted by a third-party about a user and his whereabouts, can be used as evidence in a court action.