David Yates Oct. 17, 2013, 2:58pm

Goodyear Tire & Rubber has amended its answer to assert that the statute of limitations has lapsed in a benzene lawsuit brought by local residents Robert Fontenot and his wife, who sued Goodyear and 15 other companies for allegedly exposing Fontenot to benzene throughout his career.

As previously reported, the suit was filed Feb. 4 in Jefferson County District Court.

On Oct. 10 Goodyear filed its first amended answer, asserting the plaintiffs’ claims are barred by the two-year statute of limitations, as Fontenot's diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia occurred at or prior to 2002, court records show.

The other defendants named in the lawsuit include ExxonMobil, ExxonMobil Oil, Mobil Oil, Chevron USA, Texaco, Huntsman Petrochemical, Total Petrochemicals, Shell Oil, Shell Chemical, Atlantic Richfield, BP Amoco, BP Products North America and Union Oil Company of California.

According to the lawsuit, Fontenot worked as a contractor in Southeast Texas, where he was occupationally exposed benzene and as a result developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

The suit accuses the defendants of manufacturing, selling and using benzene products without warning Fontenot of the danger.

Alleging the defendants acted in disregard of Fontenot’s wellbeing, the plaintiffs are suing for punitive damages.

Attorney Keith Hyde of the Beaumont law firm Provost Umphrey represent them.

Houston attorney David A. Oliver of Vorys Sater Seymour & Pease LLP represents Goodyear.

Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, is assigned to the case.

Case No. D193-890

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