Confidentiality Provisions in Settlement Agreements

If you’ve ever signed a settlement agreement resolving some dispute, chances are pretty good it contained a confidentiality provision. In many cases, one side or both wish to keep the terms of a settlement to themselves – whether to avoid disclosure of amounts paid to settle or for some other reason. In our experience, these provisions are often paid lip service, but routinely ignored. A recent case from Florida illustrates the perils of disclosing the terms of a settlement, even to close family. Patrick Snay, a former headmaster of a private school in Miami sued the school for discrimination. The headmaster and the school settled the lawsuit for $80,000 and the school required Mr. Snay to sign a confidentiality provision. Obviously, he violated that provision; otherwise I would have nothing to write about – he immediately told his daughter, a seemingly innocent decision. In today’s world, however, that information soon became public when his daughter posted a note on Facebook, indicating that the school had paid to settle Mr. Snay’s claims. An appellate court in Florida recently decided that Mr. Snay’s actions invalidated the terms of the settlement. The lesson – comply with the confidentiality provisions of settlement agreements (and be careful what you post on social media).

Of course, each settlement agreement is different, and every confidentiality provision has its own quirks and exceptions. If you have any questions about a specific provision, please contact us.