Sometimes You Have to Face(book) the Music

Confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements are pretty common, but they used to be a lot easier to abide by. Social media and the Internet now provide the means to breach a settlement with just one click of the mouse. 

That’s what happened in Florida to 69-year-old prep school headmaster Patrick Snay, who had sued his employer for age discrimination when his contract wasn’t renewed. The $80,000 settlement plus legal fees that Gulliver Schools agreed to pay were withdrawn after Snay’s college-age daughter issued a Facebook post bragging that her father had won just four days after the agreement was signed.

Her 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.”

The school’s lawyers argued that the daughter’s post was a breach of the confidentiality agreement, which barred Snay from disclosing the existence or terms of the settlement to anyone except his spouse, lawyers or professional advisers. Snay responded by asking the trial judge to enforce the settlement, contending he had to advise his daughter of the settlement because she had been “retaliated against” by Gulliver and “had quite a few psychological scars.” The court agreed with him.

But in a reversal, the Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal court threw out the settlement. “Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do,” the appeals court opinion stated. “His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent.” 

Unfortunate for Snay, perhaps, but the Court is correct that he had a contractual obligation to take all necessary steps to prevent that from happening because he agreed to it and accepted the benefits of the agreement. He should have not disclosed this information to his daughter. 

Or at least taught her some manners.  

Posted: 4/2/2014 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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