Nurse threatened with $120k defamation case
AN aged care nurse who intended to sue her ex employer for $150,000 for unfair dismissal has been left devastated after the company liquidated, preventing her from pursuing the claim.
And now in turn she faces being sued for upwards of $120,000 by the company for defamation.
Lisa Peel was last year fired from her role at Gold Coast company Aster Home Nursing Service Pty Ltd where she worked as an aged care nurse for the past six-and-a-half years.
Ms Peel successfully proved in June 2020 to the Fair Work Commission that she was an employee of the company of which Andrew Ning was the director.
An appeal by Mr Ning against the decision was rejected by the Fair Work Commission in December the same year.
The registered nurse said she then planned to submit a $150,000 unfair dismissal claim for superannuation and leave entitlements for the duration of her employment, but Aster Home Nursing Service Pty Ltd was liquidated on December 21, 2020, four days after the appeal was dismissed.
"I'm devastated, I still am. I thought I could at least get my superannuation because I was entitled to it after being deemed an employee for the last six-and-a-half years," Ms Peel said.
"I felt like everything came crashing down around me because I had invested a lot of money, all my savings and money my dad had leant me, to fight him on the appeal."
Ms Peel last month discovered Mr Ning now operates Aster Home Care from the existing Palm Beach office.
"The day I found out he liquidated, I walked down to the office and it was business as normal," she said.
"I spoke to the nurses there and they said nothing had changed, they didn't know anything about it (the liquidation).
"I thought he can't get away without paying his financial obligations. That's when I decided to picket his business."
Desperate for justice, Ms Peel held a one-woman protest outside Mr Ning's office where she was photographed by a local holding a bright green sign.
The sign read: "Aster nursing after 6 years service, no super, no annual leave, no travel allowance, no notice."
Ms Peel then posted her plight to social media on January 21 and 22 where it attracted nearly 200 comments by people encouraging her to seek justice.
But within days of the photograph circulating several public Facebook community groups Ms Peel received a letter from Mr Ning's solicitor, Berren Hamilton of Stone Group Lawyers, threatening legal action for defamation.
The letter sent to Ms Peel said the Facebook posts contained defamatory comments towards Aster Home Care, causing the company to be shunned and the subject of ridicule and unfounded allegations.
"Our client has suffered considerable shame, embarrassment and humiliation as a result of the untrue and defamatory statements published by you.
"Your defamatory publications caused unrest on Facebook posts causing those who followed
your account and also those who followed the community pages to participate in threads of
messages containing unfair defamatory comments made towards or about our client."
The letter demanded Ms Peel pay her former employer $10,000 on or before 4pm, February 26 and return a letter of apology.
The apology provided by Ning's lawyer included a clause that would prevent Ms Peel, or a third party, from publishing information about Aster Home Care.
It said if she did not meet those demands she could face being sued for damages "in excess of $80,000, and the legal costs in excess of $40,000."
"That's quite ironic isn't it, not only has he stopped me from claiming my super, he's now threatening to sue me," Ms Peel said.
"I spent my entire life savings on the appeal and I can't afford to fight this defamation case but I will if I have to. I will keep fighting.
"I only said what was true. I wasn't even angry, I was thinking us as nurses work so hard for veterans and I saw them every day for seven years.
"To be sacked and pulled out of there was the most devastating thing for me. And at the start of COVID it just didn't seem fair."
Chadwick Hall partner Blair Pleash was appointed to liquidate Aster Home Care Services Pty Ltd.
When asked if Mr Ning was operating a phoenix company, he told the Bulletin he was unable to comment because he was still investigating the case.
Mr Ning was contacted by the Bulletin, however, his lawyer Mr Hamilton said in an email that his client was unable to comment because the matter was ongoing.
"We are instructed that the Fair Work proceedings by Ms Peel against Aster Home Nursing Service Pty Ltd (In Liquidation) are still on foot and pending and have not yet been finally determined.
"We suggest that any further information that may be sought should be sought from the lawyers for Ms Peel and/or the appointed liquidators of Aster Home Nursing Service Pty Ltd (In Liquidation)."
Originally published as Nurse threatened with $120k defamation case