Archive for March, 2014

Confidentiality Agreements: Social Media Stupidity – Daughter Costs Her Father $90,000.00

By admin

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Imagine filing a lawsuit and agreeing to a settlement in your favor, but before you receive the money, a member of your family causes you to lose it all.

That is exactly what happened recently in the Florida case of Patrick Snay. Snay was the head of a prep school in Florida before he filed a lawsuit based on age discrimination when his contract was not renewed. In November 2011, Snay and the school reached an agreement to settle this claim for $90,000.00.

Before Snay saw a penny of the settlement, however, his daughter shared her opinion of the settlement with her 1,200 Facebook friends, many of which were students of the same school that reached the agreement with Snay. His daughter’s post read “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

As you can imagine, the Facebook post got back to the school’s administration and put Snay in some very hot water. Why? Turns out that part of the settlement agreement that Snay had with the school was that he was not allowed to speak to anyone about the terms of the settlement except for his wife and other professional advisors. This type of contract term is known as a confidentiality clause.

Of course, the people who were entitled to know the terms of the settlement did not include his daughter, who shared the terms with her many Facebook friends. When the school’s attorneys got wind of the post, they advised Snay that due to his violation of the confidentiality clause, he was no longer entitled to the settlement. Snay filed a motion to enforce the settlement and the Circuit Court granted his motion.

The school appealed to the Third District of Appeals for the state of Florida and the Court overturned the decision below, agreeing that Snay breached the confidentiality agreement with the school by speaking with his daughter about the terms of the settlement agreement.

While this may seem like an extreme example, confidentiality agreements have been widely used in New Jersey cases as well, especially personal injury cases. Often many defendants especially large national companies attempt to include confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements to avoid the details of the settlement being made public.

Before signing a release that includes a confidentiality clause, you should speak with your personal injury attorney about what the clause covers. Many of these clauses will not permit you to speak to anyone about the details of the settlement other than your attorney, unless it is for a very specific purpose.

Of course, almost all confidentiality clauses require that the settlement is not discussed on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. As I’ve cautioned before, discussing your personal injury case on social media is not recommended and more often than not, it will do far greater harm than good. Just ask the Snay family.