Facebook is the subject of another Florida court opinion. This story is a tragic one for the plaintiff, who won his lawsuit against the school that terminated his employment. The schoolmaster sued the school for age discrimination and reached a settlement of $150,000. However, the settlement agreement contained a confidentiality clause that prohibited him from disclosing to anyone other than his attorneys or spouse “any information whatsoever regarding the existence or terms of this Agreement.” Any violation of the confidentiality clause would result in a forfeiture of a portion of the settlement payment.
Within four days after the ink had dried on the settlement papers, the schoolmaster’s college-aged daughter wrote this on 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”
This post went out to 1200 of the daughter’s Facebook friends, many of whom had attended the school. When the school learned of the post, they refused to pay the schoolmaster a portion of his settlement.
The Florida appeal court ruled that the Facebook post evidenced a violation of the confidentiality agreement, which entitled the school to withhold payment of the settlement. You can read the complete opinion of the Florida court here: Gulliver Schools, Inc. v. Patrick Snay.
This true life story is a cautionary tale to anyone who is in a lawsuit but who also enjoys using social media. If you are one of these people, PLEASE, do not post on Facebook about your lawsuit or other aspects of your life that may relate to the lawsuit. In almost every personal injury lawsuit I have filed during the last few years, there is a defense lawyer who loves to talk about what my client has been doing on Facebook. The postings can be used as evidence in court. Defense attorneys love to use Facebook postings to show that a plaintiff is happy, healthy, and uninjured, and doesn’t really need to be compensated because they are already living the dream. How many Facebook friends do you know who post about their misery, pain and disappointed expectations? Face it (ugh!), Facebook is generally a place where people like to showcase their happy lives. Right? (Yes, I know, there are Facebook friends who like going to the dark side now and then).
So, be careful about what you share with the world if you have pending legal action. Do not post on Facebook about your lawsuit. The courtroom may or may not be a place where reality is accurately portrayed, depending on the evidence presented. And I suppose you could say the same thing about Facebook.