Keeping a secret can pay dividends

 Confidentiality is a common theme throughout the legal world, and for good reason. The most recognized example of this is the fact that conversations between attorney and client are privileged and held confidential, which you would think promotes an open and honest relationship between the two, but that is not always the case (i.e., clients sometimes lie, despite the fact that you can’t tell anyone what they say).

In family law, many settlement agreements are kept out of the public file, especially in high profile cases, so that the privacy of the divorcing couple and their family is held intact. When resolutions are reached behind closed doors, those involved are often held to confidentiality agreements so that no one knows what really happened or how much was awarded. Lawsuits are often publically humiliating for corporations and individuals; naturally, the PR people want to minimize any potential damage to the extent possible. Many people assume that the higher the monetary award, the more truth there was to the allegation that brought the lawsuit in the first place.
This type of confidential agreement was brought to light in Florida for the Snay family. Patrick Snay sued his former employer, Gulliver Preparatory School, claiming age discrimination when he was not brought back on board to head the school. The school and Snay eventually reached an agreement – meant to be confidential – where Snay would receive $80,000 as a settlement, in addition to $10,000 in wages and $60,000 for his attorneys. The agreement did allow exceptions to the confidentiality so that Snay and his wife could speak to his attorneys and other “professional advisors.”
Unfortunately, Snay decided to let his daughter in on the secret, claiming that she was entitled to know “something” due to the fact that she was involved in the family ordeal and had needed therapy. This probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that Snay’s daughter posted a little something on her Facebook page, which just so happened to have 1,200 individuals following it (and I thought I was doing well with 420 friends): “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.  SUCK IT.”
Gulliver Preparatory Schools was less than impressed and refused to fork over the $80,000, based on a breach of the confidentiality agreement. Various court hearings and appeals were held, but Gulliver prevailed in the end.
I wonder if Snay’s darling daughter still got to go on that European vacation.
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Marie Matyjaszek is a family law attorney whose blog site is http://legalbling.blogspot.com. She can be reached by e-mailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.
 

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