A Florida appellate court has ruled that a teenaged daughter’s post on Facebook mentioning her father’s confidential settlement of an age discrimination claim breached a confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement, barring the father from collecting an $80,000 settlement. Gulliver Schools, Inc. v. Snay, No. 3D13-1952 (Fla 3d DCA Feb. 26, 2014).
The plaintiff, Patrick Snay, was a headmaster of Gulliver, a private school in the Miami area. After his contract was not renewed, he sued for age discrimination. The parties reached a settlement pursuant to a written agreement, which included a detailed confidentiality provision. The provision stated in part:
13. Confidentiality . . . [T]he plaintiff shall not either directly or indirectly, disclose, discuss or communicate to any entity or person, except his attorneys or other professional advisors or spouse any information whatsoever regarding the existence or terms of this Agreement. . . A breach . . . will result in disgorgement of the Plaintiff’s portion of the Settlement Payments.
A couple of days after the agreement was signed, Snay’s daughter, who had recently been a student at Gulliver, posted the following on her Facebook page:
Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.
Snay’s daughter had about 1,200 Facebook friends, many of whom were current or former Gulliver students. Gulliver notified Snay of the breach and refused to tender the $80,000 to Snay under the terms of the settlement. (Snay’s attorneys received their portion). Snay moved to enforce the agreement. Limited discovery revealed that Snay and his wife notified their daughter “that the case was settled and they were happy with the result.” Snay denied ever discussing a trip to Europe. The district court held that Snay’s actions did not violate the terms of the agreement, but the appellate court reversed, noting that Snay was prohibited from “directly or indirectly” disclosing even the “existence” of the settlement.
The decision offers lessons for counsel, litigants, and parents. Counsel and litigants need to remember that these types of confidentiality provisions with disgorgement penalties are taken seriously by the courts and can be enforced. Parents need to remind their children to be mindful of what they post on social media, because it might have adult consequences.