If you were ever curious as to the strictness of confidentiality clauses in lawsuit settlements, you can be assured: they are enforced. And if you still retain a shred of doubt, just ask Patrick Snay, who lost $80,000 that was previously awarded to him as the result of a settled discrimination lawsuit because his daughter revealed the details of the settlement on Facebook, in violation of the terms of the settlement agreement, according to an article recently published by CNN.
Patrick Snay, 69, is the former head of Gulliver, a private preparatory school in Miami Florida. In 2010, Snay filed a lawsuit for age discrimination because his contract for the 2010-2011 school year was not renewed. In November of 2011, Snay reached an agreement with school by which he would be paid $10,000 in backpay, $80,000 to settle the suit, in addition to $60,000 in attorney’s fees. The agreement included a confidentiality clause stating that neither Snay nor his wife would release the details of the settlement.
Violating the Agreement
Just a short time after the settlement agreement was reached, Snay’s daughter took to Facebook and let her 1,200 friends in on the secret. She posted, “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” Since many of Snay’s daughter’s Facebook friends are former or current Gulliver students, it did not take long for news of the post to spread back to school officials.
Gulliver Schools sent a letter to Snay’s attorney saying that the confidentiality clause had been violated and, as a result, Snay would not be getting the $80,000 settlement. The post had made it obvious that either Snay or his wife spoke about the settlement to their daughter, in violation of the agreement made that said the only ones they were permitted to speak to about the settlement were his attorneys and professional advisers.
The Issue in Court
As a result of the school’s refusal to pay, Snay filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. He won before the Circuit Court, but the school appealed and a hearing was held to determine whether the settlement agreement was violated in light of the daughter’s knowledge about it and her corresponding Facebook post.
Snay contended that his daughter was an integral part of the case, since she suffered adverse actions by Gulliver as a result of the lawsuit. In fact, she was retaliated against so harshly that she entered therapy to deal with the circumstances. While Snay said he and his wife understood the confidentiality clause, he argues it was important for them to tell their daughter something to resolve the issue and provide a degree of closure.
The Court of Appeals agreed with Gulliver. Snay had violated the agreement, and the lower court’s ruling was reversed. They reasoned Snay did exactly what he he had promised not to do, and what happened as a result was what the agreement was meant to prevent: advertising to the Gulliver school community that his lawsuit for age discrimination was successful.
Settlement issues are only one of the many factors to consider in a civil case against another party. If you have questions about your right to file a lawsuit, an attorney experienced in Florida law may be able to help you. Contact the attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. today. We serve clients in South Florida in Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties.