When will people learn not to post confidential things on Facebook? Would it be wrong to hope the answer is "never"?
Here's a short opinion (and a report from the Miami Herald) teaching not only that less Facebook is more but also that sometimes, the words in a contract mean exactly what they say. After Patrick Snay's contract was not renewed by Gulliver Prep School, he sued for age discrimination. In November 2011, the parties settled. Gulliver agreed to pay $150,000. But $80,000 of that was conditioned on Snay's agreement to keep the settlement confidential:
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 [the $80k].
That's the first important quote. The second is this one, a "Facebook posting [by] Snay's college-age daughter, wherein she stated:"
Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.
Oh dear. Worse, Baby Snay has about 1,200 Facebook friends, "many of whom were either current or past Gulliver students."
It's not legally relevant in any way, but it is very much worth noting that this picture accompanied the post.
When Gulliver learned of the post, correctly assuming Baby had obtained the information from Papa, it notified Papa that because of the breach it would not be tendering the $80,000. Papa moved to enforce the settlement agreement, and the trial court held that the comments did not constitute a breach. It's a little hard to see why, given that his daughter was not on the list of people to whom he could disclose the settlement, and the parents admitted that they decided as soon as they got to the parking lot (or as the court put it, "before the ink was dry on the agreement") that they were going to tell her anyway. The appellate court concluded that doing this was a clear breach of the agreement, costing Papa 80 grand.
Snay testified that he "knew the litigation was important to his daughter" and that he and his wife would have to tell her something. If so, it's a little strange that he didn't ask his attorneys to insert the words "or daughter" in the agreement, which would have prevented all this. On the other hand, it's entirely possible that the school would not have agreed to that change, knowing that some college-age persons will seize any opportunity to say SUCK IT publicly and wanting to avoid exactly that.
The opinion isn't yet final, and it can also be appealed further, although it's hard to see the Florida Supreme Court taking an interest in this one. According to the report, Baby Snay was just joking about taking a vacation to Europe. Maybe she was and maybe she wasn't, but she's probably not going now. At least not on Papa's tab.