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Tom Hugo, 84, loved his job as a plumber.

“I loved plumbing because every day was a different day. There were other trades there, everyone helped one another. It really was a joy to go to work,” says Tom.

Growing up in Newcastle, he got his first job as an apprentice plumber at a large local manufacturer. He then worked at a number of small and large construction companies before going out on his own in the mid-1970s.

“Throughout my whole working career, I had dealings with asbestos. It was sometimes an everyday occurrence. I never knew there was a problem with it.”

Tom retired in 1997 after decades of working in plumbing. It wasn’t long after this that his wife Patricia sadly passed away.

Tom and Patricia had always wanted to go caravanning together, so after a few months at home, Tom bought a caravan and took off around Australia. It was on this trip that he met his current partner, Margaret. She was working at a caravan park in Kununurra. After a little convincing, she joined Tom on the road, and they spent the next few years travelling.

They now live in Victor Harbor, South Australia.

Tom was diagnosed with macular degeneration about five years ago and is legally blind. This didn’t stop him from being an active member of the community, and until very recently Tom was competing in a special competition for blind bowlers. He felt fit, healthy and happy.

All of a sudden, a few years ago, Tom felt short of breath. He was sent to a specialist who said his lungs showed evidence of asbestos exposure.

His condition remained stable until mid-2022 when he began experiencing severe shortness of breath. After some tests, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

“When I was diagnosed, it really changed my life and our lifestyle here, with Margaret, my partner. It put a stop to my playing bowls, it put a stop to our travelling. We used to caravan for six months every year and stay at home for six months, for the last 22 years. And I just can’t do that anymore,” says Tom.

“After being diagnosed with mesothelioma, I was advised to contact a solicitor.”

We’re glad Tom gave us a call.

“Tom’s call came through; we spoke and within 48 hours I had travelled down to Tom’s home in Victor Harbor,” says Liam Kelly, an associate lawyer in our dust diseases team.

“Tom was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos… that can come on later in life – 20 to 50 years later.”

Tom was glad he gave us a call, too.

“The experience with Liam was just outstanding because he goes the extra yard all the time," says Tom.

"Personally, with Liam, we have got to the stage where I look on him as another son.” 

Liam and his team see clients from all different ages and backgrounds come through our doors, and the devastating impacts asbestos exposure can have on people and their families.

“Acting for Tom wasn’t just any matter for me, it was a really personal and involved case that I really took to heart. What I wanted to do was to get things moving pretty much straight away and get him the resolution that he needed as soon as possible. I want to let him and Margaret get on with their lives and enjoy the time they have left together,” says Liam. 

We helped Tom successfully claim against a former employer and a manufacturer of the asbestos product that he worked with and was exposed to. We claimed that these exposures caused his mesothelioma.

Tom has told Liam he only has a 'few good months left'. He bravely wanted to share his story to raise awareness of the devastating impacts mesothelioma has on people’s lives.

While no amount of compensation can make up for what he has been through, Tom says he can’t recommend Maurice Blackburn enough for anyone else who needs legal representation for a dust-related disease.

“They’ve changed my life tremendously because they take out all the stress and strain for you,” says Tom. 

If you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with a dust-related disease, we encourage you to get in touch to talk about your options.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, you can register your exposure through our national register.

We can help with disease exposure claims

Our experienced lawyers have a long history of fighting for the rights of people suffering from asbestos, silica and other dust related illnesses. If you've been diagnosed with a dust disease, you may have a claim for compensation. 

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We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Australian Capital Territory. If you need a lawyer in Canberra or elsewhere in Australian Capital Territory, please call us on 1800 675 346.

We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.