Patrick Snay was the Headmaster of Gulliver Schools through the 2010-2011 school year. The school then decided not to renew his contract. Snay filed a complaint against the school, alleging age discrimination and retaliation. On November 3, 2011, the parties executed a release and settlement for a full and final settlement of all of Snay's claims. In exchange, Gulliver agreed to pay Snay $10,000 in back pay and $80,000 as a settlement. Gulliver also agreed to pay attorney's fees in the amount of $60,000.
In exchange for these payments, Snay waived any and all claims against Gulliver and promised to keep both the existence and the terms of the agreement confidential. The clause specifically said that if that provision was breached, a portion of the settlement proceeds would be disgorged.
Only four days later, Snay's daughter posted on Facebook, stating "Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT." Snay informed Gulliver that there was a breach of the agreement, as nearly 1,200 of the daughter's Facebook friends saw the post.
On November 15, 2011, Gulliver sent Snay a letter stating that it was tendering the attorney's portion of the settlement and the back pay, but it was not going to pay Snay the remainder of the settlement amount because he had breached the confidentiality provision. In June 2012, Snay filed a motion to enforce the agreement. The trial court agreed with Snay, accepting his argument that he had only told his daughter the matter was settled and he was happy with the results.
The appeals court reversed the decision, holding that Snay's conversation with his daughter was a breach even if he did not reveal the exact dollar amount of the settlement. The contract language was clear and unambiguous and Snay's actions constituted a breach.
This case illustrates not only the importance of clear and concise settlement agreement language, but also the ways in which social media is changing the ability to monitor and enforce these agreements. Without Facebook, Gulliver never would have known if Snay had told his daughter confidential information, or even if she had told a few friends. But because of the Facebook post, there was clear, undeniable evidence that the breach occurred. While schools sometimes worry about the harm caused by social media and the constant communication, there are some benefits as well.
Gulliver Schools Inc. v. Snay, --So.3d--, 2014 WL 769030