A standard part of many settlement agreements is a confidentiality provision. A recent case, Snay v. the Gulliver Schools, shows that in the internet age, a party can very easily learn that confidentiality has been breached.
Plaintiff Patrick Snay was the headmaster of the Gulliver Schools in South Florida. When Gulliver did not renew Snay’s contract, he sued, alleging age discrimination and retaliation. The parties reached a settlement, and the school agreed to pay $10,000 in back pay to Snay, $80,000 in damages to Snay, and $60,000 to Snay’s attorneys.
Part of the settlement agreement was a detailed confidentiality provision, which provided that Snay could not discuss the existence or terms of the agreement with anyone other than his attorneys, professional advisors or spouse. A breach of the confidentiality provision would cause the $80,000 part of the settlement proceeds to be “disgorged.”
Only four days after the agreement was signed, Gulliver notified Snay that he had breached the agreement based on a Facebook post by Snay’s college-age daughter:
Snay’s daughter had approximately 1200 Facebook friends, many of whom were either current or past Gulliver students.
Snay filed a motion to enforce the agreement, and after conducting a hearing, the trial court ruled in Snay’s favor. But the appellate court reversed and found that Snay violated the agreement – even though he only shared the terms with his daughter – because it lead to the exact harm the agreement sought to prevent.
Ah, the joys of parenthood in a world with social media! Please write to Mike Bono for more information.