Last month a Florida teen cost her father $80,000 by violating the confidentiality clause in his settlement agreement. Apparently, the girl’s father had just settled his age discrimination case with his former employer for $80,000. The teenager then posted to Facebook “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
As opposed to taking a case to trial (which becomes public record), most settlements are confidential in nature. The reason behind this is that when a company settles your claim, they do not want other potential plaintiffs to know how much they settled for. For example, Person 1 slips and falls in Restaurant X and settles for $100,000. Person 2 slips and falls in that same Restaurant X under similar circumstances with similar damages. Restaurant X does not want Person 2 to know that Person 1 received a $100,000 settlement because they could potentially settle Person 2’s claim for much less.
Confidentiality agreements are extremely common in settlements. A typical agreement reads similar to the following:
“Plaintiff agrees that he/she will not publicize or disclose or cause or knowingly permit or authorize the publicizing or disclosure of the contents of the release or of the negotiations leading up to it, or the basis for any claims or allegations which were or could have been made against the company which concerns and are within the scope of this release to any person, firm, organization or entity of any and every type, public or private, for any reason, at any time, without the prior written consent of the company or unless compelled to do so by law. Plaintiff is permitted, however, to make confidential disclosures, as required, to his accountants, attorneys, or to governmental taxing authorities. However, any unauthorized disclosure by the Plaintiff(s) accountants or attorneys will be deemed to be a breach of this provision by the Plaintiff(s). In response to inquiries from third parties concerning the status of any dispute, he/she may have with the company, the Plaintiff(s) and his/her attorneys, if any, will state only that any matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned.”
While these clauses are VERY long-winded, they basically say that you may not discuss or disseminate your settlement proceeds with anyone. This apparently goes for your family members as well. There may also be potential tax liabilities inherent in these clauses if they are not worded correctly. I ALWAYS advise my clients of their rights and responsibilities when under their settlement agreements. Now I am even bringing up the aforementioned case as an example of what NOT to do. Find an attorney that understands these agreements and will let their clients know exactly what they can say and to whom. You want an attorney who will work hard to get their clients the compensation they deserve from their injuries.