You negotiate a settlement that includes a confidentiality clause. Naturally, you know better than to go around blabbing about the case. You advise your client to stay mum as well.
But do you also tell your client to make sure their family keeps quiet? Especially any teenage children who might enjoy gabbing on Facebook?
Consider the following:
- Snarky Teen Nullifies Dad’s Confidential $80K Settlement
- Spoiled Brat Blows Dad’s Settlement
- Daughter’s Loose Lips Sink Cash Trip
- Facebook End-Zone Dance Dashes Dad’s Deal
These were some of the headlines that told the story of a Florida plaintiff whose $80,000 settlement was voided after his daughter bragged about it on Facebook.
The case offers yet another illustration of the risks of disclosing sensitive information on social media.
Facebook Posts Can Poison Your Case
Here are the facts. A 69-year-old educator agreed to a settlement of his age discrimination lawsuit that had been filed in Miami. The settlement – which included back pay and other damages – contained a condition that the terms be kept strictly confidential.
Apparently, his teen daughter did not get the message. With visions of shopping sprees and luxury cruises dancing in her head, she raced to her computer, jumped online and informed her 1,200 Facebook friends of her family’s good fortune:
“Mama and Papa won the case against [the defendant, which] is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.”
The post had a few other choice words, but you get the gist of it.
So did the defendants, who quickly contacted their lawyer. Next thing you know, the settlement
Was negated, the plaintiff was $80,000 poorer and his daughter’s European vacation had been placed on indefinite hold.
Risk Management Lessons
According to Professional Liability Matters, the case “underscores both the necessity to keep confidential matters private, as well as the importance to defendants of including confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements. Confidentiality provisions help to protect reputation, limit outside knowledge of the potential for successful lawsuits, and keep private the amount of damages that the defendant may be willing to pay.”
There are some other lessons here as well:
- Social media is a part of life.
- Facebook posts are public communications.
- Careless online messaging can mean big trouble
- Clients should be warned not to discuss confidential cases with anyone – especially chatty teens.
Oh, and another lesson: don’t count your European vacations before they hatch.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.
- Professional Liability Matters http://professionalliabilitymatters.com/2014/03/07/settlement-voided-due-to-facebook-post/
- The Examiner http://www.examiner.com/article/teen-s-facebook-post-snarky-teen-nullifies-dad-s-confidential-80k-settlement