Ken was 93 years old when he came to Shine for help. He was enduring a gruelling battle with mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer caused by his exposure to asbestos in a previous job. But when Roger Singh - our Dust litigation specialist - met Ken, he wasn’t prepared for the profound effect his story would have on him.
Asbestos claims are challenging – due to the aggressive nature of mesothelioma it’s a race against the clock and you often have to prove exposure that occurred decades ago.
Ken’s condition was deteriorating rapidly, so Roger and the team travelled to Ken’s family home in Noosa on ANZAC Day in 2012 to meet with him personally. With the help of his wife Betty and daughter Robyn, they sat for hours listening, asking questions, and taking detailed notes.
In a comfortable armchair, with a cup of tea in hand, Ken told his story and Roger listened. Roger soon realised he was sitting in the presence of a National Treasure – someone who’d devoted their life to service and played a critical role in Australia’s history.
Ken was an ANZAC himself and in 1943, at age 24, he was sent to the frontline in Papua New Guinea as part of the 30th Regiment, assigned to fend off the Japanese invasion. Ken spoke of awful atrocities he’d witnessed and how he’d developed severe anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
In 1946, he returned to civilian life and landed a job as a painter with the City of Sydney Council, where he worked for more than 30 years. Upon his retirement in 1984 Ken devoted his time to charity work with the Salvation Army, playing an active role in his local RSL and wearing his medals with pride every year on Anzac Day. In all respects, Ken, despite his advanced age, was fit and healthy until his mesothelioma diagnosis.
"It was remarkable to think this wonderful, brave soul who managed to survive the horrors of the war and put his life on the line for us, was ultimately taken out by the fall out of commercial greed; a liberty which would not have seen the light of day if it wasn't for the courage of Ken and others like him."
Taking Ken’s asbestos exposure statement required expert knowledge, understanding and patience. Using it to paint a picture of Ken’s life and craft a legally sound argument to present to the courts took painstaking skill, passion and years of experience.
Leaving no stone unturned, Roger was able to attribute Ken’s asbestos exposure to an exact period when Ken was sanding down asbestos cement sheeting. The sheeting had formed the exterior and interior linings of Housing Commission homes and Municipal buildings in Sydney.
Two days after meeting Ken, armed with his specific exposure history, Roger and the Shine team filed proceedings against the City of Sydney Council, and they were successful in securing compensation for Ken and his family.
Sadly, on the 9th of February 2013, Ken’s long battle came to an end, succumbing to asbestos cancer. For Roger, going the extra mile and standing up for Ken was not something he’d taken lightly. Representing Ken was an honour, a privilege and remains a highlight of his career to this day.
"People often ask me ‘what's it all about?’ For me, my job is about people like Ken who fought and put his life on the line for people like us. Now it is time for us to fight for people like Ken and for me to represent Ken in his time of need is truly an honour and a privilege"