O’Reilly asks US court to dismiss lawsuit taken by former nurse

Businessman’s lawyers say claims by former PA ‘defy all business and common sense’

Sun, Feb 2, 2014, 20:23

Lawyers for businessman Sir Anthony O’Reilly have asked a US court to dismiss a lawsuit taken by his former nurse and personal assistant contesting her claim that he reneged on a promise to hand over company shares or pay her full agreed salary for several years.

In a filing to a Pennsylvania court this week, lawyers for Sir Anthony argued that the claims made by Sabina Vidunas, who worked for him for more than a decade, “defy all business and common sense.”

They said that her claim that she was entitled to a $200,000 (€143,000) annual cash salary since 2000 and a house in the Bahamas were “a very substantial and generous compensation package for an at-will nursing aide and scheduling personal assistant type position.”

Sir Anthony’s lawyers said that Ms Vidunas also claims she is entitled to a further $26 million worth of shares in US food company HJ Heinz Co and Irish oil and gas company Providence Resources, which amounts to more than 130 times her salary and 12 times the total salary paid to her over a decade.

Ms Vidunas’s claims arising from vague and legalistic allegations of oral promises, “some allegedly made as long as 16 years ago” are barred by the statute of limitations and of frauds, they said.

“It would be fundamentally unjust, and it is neither appropriate nor required, for Mr O’Reilly to be called upon to defend from overseas against such groundless and utterly implausible allegations,” they said. “The complaint should be dismissed at the outset and in its entirety.”

His lawyers have asked US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania that if it does not dismiss her complaint, that it compel Ms Vidunas to provide details of each alleged instance when he promised to place shares in a trust for her or when he agreed to pay her $200,000 a year.

Ms Vidunas filed her lawsuit in December saying that she became Sir Anthony’s personal nurse in 1995, monitoring his day-to-day health needs, administering medications and making arrangements for necessary healthcare supplies during many lengthy trips he regularly took for business and pleasure.

Her role soon expanded to assisting in the planning and scheduling of Sir Anthony’s calendar and making arrangements for his frequent business and pleasure travel, on which she accompanied him.

Ms Viduna’s legal complaint claimed that she was required to perform “duties which were unsavoury” and “repugnant duties,” the details of which were not disclosed to the court.

She carried out these duties because Sir Anthony promised in September 1999 to pay her $200,000 a year and to hold thousands of company shares in trust for her benefit until her retirement.

She claimed she was paid $200,000 in 2000 but just $150,000 each year until 2007 and then $100,000 in 2008 and $47,500 in 2009 even though she performed the duties set out in an agreement between them.

Ms Vidunas claimed she was constructively discharged in or about 2011 and that Sir Anthony failed, as promised, to hand over 343,000 shares in HJ Heinz and 2.5 million shares in Providence Resources.

She alleges that he had told her he would hold the shares in trust for her until she ceased employment with him but that “to date O’Reilly has refused to turn over the account,” her complaint states.

In a personal declaration to the court signed by Sir Anthony this week, he said that Ms Vidunas provided nursing and personal assistant-type services and was last paid for services in October 2009.

She provided no services after September 2009 and they last spoke in November 2009, he said. Sir Anthony said he has not maintained a home in Pennsylvania since 2000 when he retired from Heinz.

She has alleged breach of contract and fiduciary duty and has demanded the payment of all wages due and damages equal to 25 per cent of all wages including the value of the company shares.

Ms Vidunas listed Sir Anthony’s addresses at Castlemartin Stud Farm in Kilcullen Co Kildare and Chateau des Ducs de Normandie in Bonneville-sur-Touques in France in her legal complaint.She said that he bought her a home in the Bahamas in 2005 as further compensation for her employment duties.

Sir Anthony and his family hold a 7 per cent shareholding in Independent News & Media, the publisher of The Irish Independent and The Sunday Independent.