The family of a Merseyside man who died because of workplace asbestos exposure has secured compensation with the help of his union, Unite, and Thompsons Solicitors.

Thomas Mitchell worked as an electrician for a shipbuilding firm from 1948 until his retirement in 1992.

He was taken to hospital after experiencing severe breathing problems. He died before doctors could diagnose his illness. A post-mortem found Thomas had developed the fatal asbestos disease, mesothelioma.

His family contacted Unite the union and instructed Thompsons Solicitors to make a compensation claim. Thompsons spoke to Thomas’ former colleagues, who confirmed asbestos was used at the shipbuilding firm, including in the lagging of pipework and boilers. Thomas would work in these areas on a regular basis, unaware that large areas of his surroundings were lagged with dangerous asbestos materials.

“My dad’s disease was a silent killer,” said his daughter, Carol. “He was exposed to asbestos for decades without ever knowing about it, or the damage it was causing him. We’d assumed he was suffering from a form of cancer, but to find out it was a result of his working conditions was a huge shock.”

With the support of witnesses and medical experts, Unite Legal Services and Thompsons Solicitors helped Carol secure a compensation settlement.

“Unite and Thompsons fought for my dad’s rights,” Carol said. “Without their help, I would have still been clueless as to how he developed his illness. I can’t thank them enough.”

"Thomas’ union membership meant the legal support his family received was free of charge, so they were not left out of pocket in their search to understand how and why Thomas was exposed to asbestos.”

Ritchie James, North West regional secretary, Unite the Union

Thompsons Solicitors’ is currently highlighting the devastating legacy of asbestos in the UK through its #PastButPresent campaign. Thousands of people like Carol have lost loved ones because of exposure to asbestos at work years ago, which develops into an asbestos disease later in life.

Ritchie James, North West regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “Thomas dedicated his entire career to an employer who failed to protect his health at a basic level. Asbestos has left a legacy of devastation in Merseyside. We have seen many members and families across our region struggle to cope with the aftermath of an asbestos disease diagnosis.

“Thomas had died before we were contacted, but with his family’s help we were still able to get them the legal support they needed to make a claim. Thomas’ union membership meant the legal support his family received was free of charge, so they were not left out of pocket in their search to understand how and why Thomas was exposed to asbestos.”