Apparently Patrick Snay never gave his daughter the sage advice my father, a naval veteran of World War II (OK, he went in after the war and made it as far as Jamaica, but the point still stands) gave me. Dad always reminded me to be cautious in sharing information with the world because as the old adage goes “loose lips sink ships.” Dad was never exposed to the viral world of Facebook, and in my college years I couldn’t have shared private information with 1200 friends unless I took out an ad in Boston Globe. But it was still good advice.
Mr. Snay wasn’t so lucky. When his contract as the Headmaster of a school in Florida was not renewed, he filed a complaint of age discrimination against Gulliver Schools, Inc. He was able through his attorneys to negotiate a nice settlement consisting of $10,000 in back wages, $80,000 in compensatory damages and $60,000 in attorney’s fees. The settlement agreement contained a very specific and very strict confidentiality provision by which Snay agreed not to disclose even the existence of the settlement to anyone but his attorneys, professional advisors or spouse. Unfortunately, Snay told his college aged daughter, an alumna of Gulliver, that the case settled and that he was pleased with the result. Within days the daughter posted the following on Facebook: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” The post was open to her 1200 friends, many of whom had also attended Gulliver.
Not surprisingly Gulliver did not take kindly to this very clear breach of the agreement and declined to pay the $80,000. After all, the information they wanted to keep secret was broadcast to just the audience from which they most wanted to keep it. The Third District Court of Appeal in Florida sided with Gulliver. The court found that the plain and unambiguous meaning of the confidentiality paragraph, which was central to the settlement, was that neither Snay nor his wife would disclose “either directly or indirectly” any information regarding the existence or terms of the parties’ agreement. Snay told his daughter, and she told the world. And now Snay is out $80,000, and one might imagine that the daughter never made it to Europe for the summer.