When most people think of a lawsuit, they think of the dramatic trials that they see on television and in movies. In reality, however, the majority of cases never go to trial. Instead, the two parties can negotiate outside the courtroom and come to a settlement agreement. Trials can be lengthy and costly, therefore settlement saves both parties time, stress, and money. The parties have the opportunity to be creative in their negotiating, so even though defendants may be paying out money, they can try to protect their reputations at the same time.
One way defendants protect themselves is by including a confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement. This provision prevents the parties from discussing or disclosing the terms of the settlement with almost anyone. This way, the media or general public will never learn that the defendant agreed to pay the plaintiff, which may indicate some wrongdoing.
Daughter costs her dad $80,000
Patrick Snay was the headmaster of Gulliver School. When his contract was not renewed for the 2010-2011 school year, he brought an age discrimination and retaliation claim against his former employer. The two parties settled out of court and Gulliver agreed to pay $10,000 in back pay, $80,000 in other compensation to Snay, and $60,000 to Snay’s attorneys. The settlement agreement included a strict
confidentiality agreement that stated Snay could not discuss any terms of the settlement with anyone except his attorneys, professional advisors, or spouse. If he violated the confidentiality agreement, Snay would forego the $80,000 award. Only four short days after Snay signed the settlement agreement, his teenage daughter posted the following on her Facebook profile page: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” The daughter had 1200 friends on Facebook, many who had attended or were currently attending Gulliver.
After learning of the Facebook post, Gulliver let Snay know that he would not be receiving the $80,000 check because he breached the confidentiality provision. Snay sued to try to enforce the $80,000 award stating that telling his daughter was necessary. In response, Gulliver argued that if Snay knew that he would want to tell his daughter, he should have included her in the settlement agreement. A Court of Appeals recently decided that Snay did, in fact, breach the confidentiality provision and should therefore not receive his $80,000 portion of the award. This case goes to show how seriously courts take settlement agreements and expect all parties to strictly abide by the agreement.
If you believe you may have any type of employment law issue, you should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss a possible case. Whether your case settles or goes to trial, HKM Employment Attorneys can help you.