Rebecca Oates

I spend most of my days lying on my back, because of the severe pain that results from both sitting and standing for anything over than an hour due to a Johnsons & Johnsons pelvic floor mesh I had implanted. After the surgery, I suffered excruciating pain and this destroyed my ability to work and took a toll on my marriage and family. I was told that I was imagining things and to see a psychologist by my doctor. If it wasn’t for my class action I never would have found out I had a faulty medical device implanted in my body.

Because of the class action, it has brought thousands of women together to fight and seek treatment and get the correct information needed to help improve our quality of life. It’s the reason there was an inquiry into the use and safety of mesh and it was the reason the government has now set up mesh clinics in hospitals all across Australia to help us.

It’s also been incredibly important to hold such a big and powerful company responsible and to send a very powerful message that they can no longer get away with this behaviour and the ‘little people’ will no longer be silent. I actually called a few law firms before deciding to join the class action to see if I could take action on my own and I was basically hung up on or turned away.

I think when I joined the class action there was about 300 women involved, now after media coverage and court mandated letters that went out to patients who had mesh implanted, there are now thousands. I can’t speak about how much of an impact receiving compensation would be to my life – I try not to get ahead of myself just in case they win the appeal. But, because I have been left so damaged, I have been unable to work from the age of 27, I pray that justice will prevail and I am able to give my children a better life financially even if my physical capabilities of giving them a better life has been stripped from me.

Class action lawsuits such as this one against Johnson and Johnson are so incredibly important, not only financially but psychologically as well. The day the judge ruled in our favour, I cried and cried all day, finally someone believed us, after years of pain and suffering and endless doctors appointments and hospital visits and many surgeries later, we had a voice, we were heard and Johnson and Johnson would be held accountable for the destruction they have caused to countless women’s lives. Now I just hope that they are made to pay.

I do know if things were to change so that class action lawsuits wouldn’t be possible anymore, so many people would be unjustly suffering in silence and nothing would change. Big business would be able to abuse their power without any consequence and it’s the little people who shape our community that would be left to suffer in silence.

Natasha Christie

My family and I have been through hell and back due to a Johnsons & Johnsons pelvic floor mesh medical device being implanted in my body. I had the device removed in 2017 due to excruciating pain and suffering. I hope that by speaking out at least one other woman can be saved.

Dr John Comacho

I’m a paediatric dentist who signed my successful dental practice up to Smile Inclusive, which offered dentists all over the county a centralised resource for running their finances, marketing and business admin. In the two years since this happened, Smile’s delivery of promises has never materialised and its share price has dropped from $1 to 1 cent. It’s a fair estimate that the dentists who signed over their businesses, and the shareholders that facilitated the rollup, have collectively lost tens of millions between them. Our collective consideration of a class action, without access to litigation funding this case will never be financially viable, thus leaving everyone with nowhere to turn.

Nick Andriankis

Nick is the lead applicant in the Uber class action. Nick’s father drove and owned cabs and he then too eventually drove and owned his own taxis, as well as running cars and licences. He worked hard his entire life for this, but when Uber came into Australia and operated illegally to capture the market, including not paying fees and not being regulated, his life and work changed forever. Nick has seen first-hand the impacts of this not just for him, but for thousands of drivers and their families nationwide. Nick is a firm believer that the Uber class action has only been possible because thousands of people just like him have been able to come together through a funded class action to take on a giant like Uber, something that would never have been possible on his own. “The class action has only been possible because thousands of people just like me have been able to come together through a funded class action to take on a giant like Uber,” said Nick.

Rachel Whittaker

I was at work when I was alerted to a news report saying my estate was being evacuated. I found out the new estate had been built too close to a landfill site that had not been filled properly and had leaks. Houses dropped in value massively overnight. I was nursing a daughter with a brain tumour and this was an incredibly stressful time. So I was one of 700 home owners who took part in a class action after high levels of methane gas were detected in houses at Brookland Greens estate. 

Rod Gibson

I was the lead claimant in an action against Murray Goulburn Co-operative. The action was launched after investors lost money when the unit price collapsed in 2016. 1300 investors received a share in $42 million. I signed on fully aware of the costs agreements in place for the litigation funder and was happy with the return. For the plaintiffs to recoup such a significant proportion of their losses is an excellent result when at one stage, our investments seemed lost.

Bernie Perkins

Farmer Bernie Perkins knows his family’s land on the Liverpool Plains and how to make the most out of its black and fertile soil.

For years he and many other farmers in NSW and Queensland have been growing the summer crop sorghum.

Used mostly for stock feed, it’s a highly profitable crop and can be planted year after year.

But, in 2010 that all changed when he and hundreds of other farmers planted sorghum seeds.

Unbeknownst to them it was contaminated with a virulent weed called shattercane. It’s changed the way they have had to farm and farmers have lost hundreds of thousands and in some cases, millions of dollars each.

Mr Perkins knew nothing about litigation funding before the class action began but now says without it, there would be no way for farmers like himself to seek compensation for destroyed livelihoods.

“Farming is all about controlling weeds. But we were actually growing a crop that was putting a whole lot of weeds into our land. It’s a problem we’re still dealing with today.”

In addition to being expensive to control, Mr Perkins says the shattercane has stopped him and other farmers from growing sorghum in constant crop rotations. It out-competes sorghum and, as a grass similar to sorghum, is impossible to control in growing crops.

“We used to be able to plant sorghum for years in a row but we can’t anymore. We have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of this.”

Mr Perkins and other farmers got together and engaged with a local solicitor, who brought in a London-based litigation funder. “I knew a little about class actions prior to this happening, but I knew absolutely nothing about litigation funders. But this would never have gotten off the ground without them. I don’t begrudge that they make a profit out of doing this as they take on all the risk.

“Farmers are also notoriously anti litigation. We just don’t have the time to take legal action ourselves, or the confidence or know how and we certainly didn’t have the money to do this either. Having the funding meant we were able to employ very best solicitors and barristers, both locally and from Sydney.

Graham Higgins

It was a no brainer for Graham Higgins to join the Queensland Energy Class Action.

The hotel owner from Toowoomba says the state run energy companies have been engaged in a form of unlawful taxation for years and he’s urging every Queenslander to join him.

Graham is one of around 12,500 individuals and businesses who have signed up for the class action against the Queensland Government’s state owned power generators – which stand accused of artificially inflating energy prices from 2013 to 2019.

Graham, who runs Vacy Hall, a historic boutique hotel in Toowoomba, pays around $25,000 every year on power bills and says any money that’s returned would be invested back in his business.

“Over the five years in question I paid around $125,000 in power bills. If I could even get back $25k that could mean I could put it towards paying for my new roof. For families with normal household bills, it could make a big difference in these very difficult times. For large businesses and body corporates the amounts they could get back would be a substantial benefit for shareholders and residents.

“When I heard about this class action I jumped at the chance and hope more people recognise they could benefit from this and join us.”

The state owned companies Stanwell and CS Energy have already been investigated for price gouging by the Australian Energy Regulator.

Graham said: “You would normally expect it’s the privatised companies that would rip off the public by price gouging and being anti-competitive, but not in this case. It’s really a form of unlawful increased taxation and these Queensland Government owned business have acted unethically. Everyone who had a power account in those six years should join this class action. It’s no win and no fee, and what we could get back is substantial.”

The class action being led by Piper Alderman alleges that CS Energy and Stanwell have been misusing their market power to artificially increase electricity prices in the Queensland region of the NEM which has caused significant increases in the cost of living for all residents and business owners in the State.

Innes Creighton

Innes Creighton thought he had done everything right when he invested $200k of his life savings into Provident Capital Ltd in 2011.

Innes investigated the company, spoke to one of its directors and noted it had a wide portfolio of investments and. Innes had also spent his life centred around the financial sector, so he figured his investment would be safe and would provide a far better return than the bank interest currently being paid on his savings. His investment was also being overseen by a trustee called Australian Executor Trustees (AET) with a 170 year history, another reason to feel secure.

But, unbeknownst to him the company was using depositors funds to repay loans in default, and once that bad loan was cleared, they treated it as a new loan application, so it appeared as they had no loans in default.

At first the 88-year-old former mayor was none the wiser, and was receiving his monthly interest payments but they suddenly stopped when Provident collapsed in 2012.

A class action against AET offered Innes the only chance of getting any of his money back and seeing someone pay. In court it was argued that AET had failed in its duties to ensure that Provident would have sufficient property available to repay debenture holders when their investment came due. Had AET acted sooner, the action alleged, substantial losses could have been avoided for some investors and minimized for others.

Innes said: “What they did was wrong, and they knew it. It was deliberate. They knew when they took my money they were in trouble. It was really important to me that someone needed to be punished.

“I see criticism of class actions in the papers but I just can’t see how anyone could argue against them. They are there to help people who have been hurt, and in my case that was in a financial way. I firmly believe that class actions are needed when people are dishonest. There was also no way an individual would have the financial capacity to seek justice in this case.

It took around six years and Innes, as lead litigant, had to go to court a couple of times but at the end he did recoup some of his losses but more importantly to him the directors of the firm are now barred from ever being directors again.

“I think I knew at the start that I was unlikely to really get all my money back. So, to get anything back was a good result. I have reconciled that loss. “But this was a lot of money to lose and it has affected our lives. We are fortunate in that we still are able to lead a reasonable lifestyle, and whilst this loss has made us more careful, we are better off than many others affected by this company’s dishonesty.”

After a six year court battle, the Supreme Court of NSW approved a $28.5 million settlement in a class action in 2018 against AET. The action was brought by Slater and Gordon on a No Win No Fee basis on behalf of approximately 1,900 Australians who suffered financial losses.

John Bottoms

John Bottoms has been fighting for indigenous justice for decades.

Over the years the lawyer from Cairns has worked on everything from the Ayres Rock Land Claim to the landmark Wik case – a significant judgment in the area of native title – and most recently the Stolen Wages class action.

It’s the fifth largest class action Australia has ever seen and delivered a settlement from the Queensland Government to the tune of $190 million. Litigation funding was crucial to its success.

Here John talks how the Stolen Wages class action finally delivered justice to thousands of Aboriginal people.

I actually knew the lead application Hans Pearson through a previous case.

Hans came to me and asked if he thought I could help him and his late wife, Anna May Pearson, recover the wages that had been stolen by the Queensland Government over many decades.

Hans was one of many thousands of people who literally worked for no wages as they were paid to the government. They received only rations and very poor accommodation and felt like slaves. They Government built 13 hospitals in South East Queensland using their wages.

This was a 50 year old sore that needed fixing but the Queensland Government seemingly found it too difficult. They only wanted to offer up $46 million for a repatriation scheme which was insultingly low.

We started proceedings in September 2016 arguing that the Government had breached its duty as trustee and fiduciary of a trust. We went through three mediations – but it got nowhere. It was only the trial date that focused their minds and we were able to settle for $190 million in 2019.

At the beginning we had just a few hundred claimants but by the end we were representing 13,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We’re a small firm so managing that amount of people was difficult at times.

There was as you’d imagine also a huge amount of documentation to go through from archives. We also had to travel all over Queensland – as far north as Saibai Island near Papua New Guinea and to Cape York and Mount Isa to meet face to face with our members and gather evidence and their stories. A lot of people did not have paperwork, and many people were very old.

This case cost $13.4 million to run and there is no way we could have done this without litigation funding. The funder, Litigation Lending, actually offered us a lower commission rate because it was a social justice case.

The litigation funders really are the only way the ordinary Joe in the street can take on big government, big pharma and the big corporates.

In this case it was the public service that was letting people down – in fact it was letting people die so they did not have to pay anything back.

The sheer bloody mindedness of these entities never ceases to amaze me.

At the end of the day we managed to secure $190 million which makes me deeply satisfied. Money that will now reach the claimants this December. It’s probably not what is fully owed to them but for a little country law firm we hadn’t done too badly.

I’m not done yet. There are still so many injustices to fix in the Aboriginal community.