Binding contracts are an essential tool in conducting business. That includes not just the agreements that govern the transaction of products, goods, and services, but also the contracts that settle disputes between parties. Settlement agreements are essential for declaring each side’s rights and responsibilities. With any settlement agreement, there are three areas where having a skilled Atlanta commercial contracts lawyer on your side can yield a crucial benefit to your side: negotiating the agreement, drafting and executing the agreement, and finally enforcing the agreement.
In this post, we’re focusing on the last of those three items and a recent settlement agreement case from the Georgia Court of Appeals. The underlying case involved a very well-known Atlanta trial lawyer and a law firm. When the two sides’ business relationship ended, they worked out a settlement agreement that included a non-disparagement clause. Non-disparagement clauses can be an essential means to protecting a business’s reputation, especially in this age of ubiquitous social media.
After the sides executed the agreement, the firm sought payment of certain fees. Subsequently, the lawyer allegedly called the firm “crooks,” accusing them of extorting him and failing to prioritize the interests of their clients above their own. He allegedly reiterated the extortion claim and accused the firm of engaging in a “shakedown effort” in a statement he sent to the press and posted on social media.
When the other side has violated an existing agreement, you may have various remedies at hand through a breach of contract action. You may potentially obtain money damages to compensate you for the damage the other side’s breach caused. Sometimes, though, you may obtain a benefit from seeking injunctive relief as your remedy.
This law firm sought the latter, asking the judge to issue an injunction enjoining the lawyer from violating the non-disparagement clause. An injunction can help your side because violation of an injunction carries the possibility of the violator incurring contempt-of-court penalties.
Contractual Waivers of Constitutional Rights
The Court of Appeals concluded that an injunction that forbids a party to a non-disparagement agreement from violating the terms of that contract does not violate the enjoined party’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The court, in upholding the injunction’s validity, declared that private parties may agree to waive certain constitutional rights through a binding contract, specifically writing that parties are “at liberty to waive a constitutional as well as a legal right.” That includes free speech rights waived through a non-disparagement agreement.
When you’ve gone through the work of negotiating a settlement to your commercial dispute, a non-disparagement clause may be an essential part of protecting your business’s reputation from a bitter opponent. When your needs include the insertion of such a provision, you need a clause that will properly protect you and your business. For your settlement agreement with a non-disparagement clause, you can count on the experienced Atlanta contract dispute attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC. Whether you’re seeking to negotiate, execute, or enforce such an agreement, we have the knowledge, skills, and experience to fully protect your business’s interests. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (404) 373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation today.