If you are injured and file a lawsuit for damages, in many cases, the other side may settle with you before a trial is needed. In return for paying you damages for your injuries, the negligent party often may want a confidentiality provision in your settlement agreement.
A case from earlier this year demonstrates how seriously defendants can take these confidentiality agreements. It also demonstrates how mindful everyone must be in an age of social media.
Man’s Daughter Violates Confidentiality
The case involved a man who had received a settlement from a defendant. The suit was over age discrimination, but there is effectively no difference between a discrimination suit and an injury suit when it comes to being aware of confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements.
The settlement agreement required that the plaintiff not disclose to anyone, “directly or indirectly,” the existence of the settlement, much less any of its terms or conditions.
Feeling like he had to tell his daughter something about what happened, the plaintiff told her “…it was settled and we were happy with the results.”
The problem was that after hearing this, the daughter posted this to her Facebook page:
“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
As you can imagine, that bit of information, broadcast to the daughter’s 1000+ Facebook friends, was enough for the defendant to refuse to pay the settlement agreement, claiming the confidentiality provision was violated. A motion to enforce the agreement was filed by the plaintiff.
The Dispute over Confidentiality
In depositions, the plaintiff understandably said that he had to tell his daughter something about the result of the case, but that he had not told her they “won,” nor did his daughter to go Europe. He, of course, never authorized her to say anything on Facebook.
But the court found against the plaintiff, and agreed the settlement agreement was violated, invalidating the settlement.
What’s most disturbing is that the court did not invalidate it on the basis of the Facebook post, but on the fact the father had told the daughter the case settled. The court said that if the father intended to tell his family, he could have and should have made sure that exception was in his settlement agreement.
The fact that a confidentiality agreement can restrict what we tell our loved ones, in the privacy of our own homes, is very concerning for settling defendants in all cases. That’s not to mention the privacy invasions, as the depositions of the family (including the daughter) no doubt inquired into their personal conversations.
Of course, had the daughter not posted on Facebook (much less, so crudely), it’s unlikely the defendant or anyone else would have ever known that the father told his daughter about the settlement.
But the lesson is still there: if you sign a settlement agreement with an included confidentiality agreement, those provisions are enforceable. And although nobody will explicitly tell you not to share information with your closest family members, if you do, make sure they know the ramifications of disclosure, and the seriousness of the agreement that you signed.
Personal injury suits can have numerous issues even after settlement occurs. Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your injury or malpractice case.