Confidential Settlement? Don’t Write About it on Facebook!
Social media in civil litigation is still (relatively) new terrain. In a lesson for the ages, one teenage girl demonstrated the costly price of “oversharing” to the tune of $80,000. In this case, her father had filed suit against his former employer. The father was the former head of Gulliver Preparatory School and he alleged age discrimination when his contract was not renewed. His daughter, as well as many of her friends, also attended Gulliver. The parties settled out of court for $80,000, and included in the agreement was a confidentiality clause to not disclose any facts of the case or settlement to anyone except his attorneys.
The father apparently told his daughter about the outcome of the case, as she posted the following on Facebook in what can only be described as classic-teenage speak: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
Except that there will be no traversing through Europe for this young lady on Gulliver’s dollar. The daughter had over 1,200 Facebook friends, many of which were also former Gulliver pupils. So it’s not hard to imagine how quickly this post went viral and got back to Gulliver and its attorneys, who then decided to not pay the settlement. The father filed a motion to enforce the settlement, and the court granted the motion. The school appealed, and the appeals court held a hearing to determine whether the confidentiality clause was violated.
The father attempted to explain to the court why they had disclosed the settlement to the daughter: she was concerned about the case and she was in therapy regarding what happened to him at Gulliver’s. Such excuses did not persuade the appeals court, which sided with the school and ordered the $80,000 returned. The court found the father broke the clear language of the settlement agreement, and his daughter did exactly what the confidentiality clause forbade.
Did You Know? Although used as evidence in many civil cases, ABC News cited Facebook being mentioned in 1/3 of divorce filings in 2011.