In the age of social media, it is critical that lawyers warn their clients about the legal consequences of sharing information. A Florida Court, the Third District Court of Appeals, ruled that an age discrimination plaintiff will not receive his $80,000 settlement due to a post his daughter made on Facebook.
While in the middle of a legal case, lawyers should recommended that their clients set all social networking accounts to the maximum privacy settings. Even if the privacy settings are set to maximum, they should not to post anything related to the case. More and more, parties try to seek legal access to social networks in search of posts that can be used against the person.
The Florida decision highlights this concern. When a school did not renew the plaintiff’s, Patrick Snay’s, contract as headmaster, he brought a law suit against the school claiming age discrimination and employer retaliation.
The school and the headmaster settled the case with the school paying $10,000 in back pay, $60,000 in attorneys fees, and $80,000 to settle the case. The settlement agreement contained a confidentiality provision prohibiting either party from discussing the terms of the settlement. Any violation by the plaintiff would result in a disgorgement of the $80,000.
Confidentiality provisions are common in lawsuit settlements. Usually defendants, like the school, have business or legal reasons for not letting the public know they settled a case or for how much. For example, they do not want to breed lawsuits if they make a high settlement. In a quid pro quo, the plaintiff usually receives a higher settlement for the non-disclosure.
Mr. Snay’s daughter, who had attended the same school, had her life seriously impacted by the case. When she heard that the case had settled, she went to her 1,200 friends on Facebook and posted, “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” Many of her Facebook friends were also current and past students, and the school soon became aware of the posting.
Interestingly, the settlement agreement gave Mr. Snay a unilateral right to revoke the agreement within seven days after signing, and the school had notified the Mr. Snay of the breach prior to this revocation period ending. Nevertheless, Mr. Snay did not revoke the agreement, and the day after the revocation period ended, the school informed the Snay’s attorney that they would not be paying the $80,000 due to the breach of the non-disclosure.
Mr. Snay brought a motion to compel enforcement of the settlement, which the trial court granted. Mr. Snay argued that he did not make the Facebook post and that he had only told his daughter that the case had settled and he was happy with the result. Nevertheless, the district court overturned the trial court’s decision noting that the plain and unambiguous terms in the agreement prohibited the headmaster or his wife from disclosing to anyone any information regarding the case. The judge noted that the purpose of the non-disclosure was to prevent advertising to the community the results of the case. By disclosing to his daughter, the headmaster did exactly what he promised not to do.
We have become accustomed to over-sharing our lives on social media. It is crucial for attorneys to explain to their clients the importance of not sharing information on social media. Sharing information could be used against a party or could jeopardize a case.
If you have been injured by the negligent acts of another, it is important to find a lawyer that can effectively communicate with you. The law and any legal agreements can be full of complex legal jargon and concepts. Our personal injury attorneys take pride in the special attention to our clients. We will give you the attention that you need so that you can get the compensation that you deserve.
Local attorney, John C. Manoog III, has extensive experience handling personal injury cases. For a free initial consultation, call the office at 888-262-6664 or reach us by email. There is always someone available to talk to you about your case.
Social Media Resources for Bar Associations, 2014, American Bar Association
Non-disclosure agreement, 2014, Wikipedia
Related Blog Posts:
Court Orders Parties in a Slip-and-Fall Case to Hire a Neutral “Computer Expert” to Examine Plaintiff’s Facebook Page, May. 27, 2013, Cape Cod Injury Lawyer Blog
Your Cape Cod Personal Injury Case and Knowing the Rules of Evidence — NE Physical Therapy Plus, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Jan. 13, 2014, Cape Cod Injury Lawyer Blog