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A federal judge has denied a pump manufacturer’s argument that an asbestos-related lung cancer case should be tossed because it wasn’t filed in time.

As asbestos litigation continues its steady decline and fewer lawsuits against companies for asbestos-related illnesses make it past the early stages of litigation, plaintiff Kathleen Conneen’s case on behalf of her deceased husband, Joseph Conneen, has cleared a significant hurdle.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied defendant Goulds Pumps Inc.’s motion for summary judgment based on Pennsylvania’s two-year statute of limitations in asbestos cases, and under maritime law. Joseph Conneen worked in a shipyard.

The primary dispute centers on when Kathleen Conneen’s husband learned his exposure to asbestos could have been a factor in his diagnosis. According to Robreno’s opinion, Joseph Conneen, who filed suit in January 2015, was diagnosed with lung cancer in December of 2012.

Kathleen Conneen argued that her husband did not learn that asbestos exposure was a possible factor until February 2013, while Goulds countered that since Conneen’s husband worked around asbestos for 28 years and never smoked, he should have been more diligent in trying to identify the cause of his cancer.

Goulds pointed to medical records indicating that Conneen’s husband talked about his history of exposure to his doctors in 2012. Joseph Conneen said his doctors wrote off asbestos exposure as a possible cause, denying there was any “worrisome exposure.”

Ultimately, Robreno held, “the evidence presented by defendant does not establish that Mr. Conneen learned of asbestos as a potential cause of his cancer in December of 2012.”

“Moreover,” the judge continued, “because Mr. Conneen asserts that he first learned of this possible link in February 2013 (less than two years before he filed his complaint), there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to when Mr. Conneen learned of this possible causal link. Therefore, if the statute of limitations began to run when Mr. Conneen first knew of a possible causal link between asbestos exposure and his cancer.”

Joseph Conneen worked as a pipefitter and plumber from 1962 to 1980. He worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and Rohm and Haas Chemicals in Bristol and Philadelphia.

Kathleen Conneen is represented by Carla Jo Guttilla of the Nemeroff Law Firm in Pittsburgh. Guttilla did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Goulds’ attorney, Joshua Scheets of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, did not respond to a request for comment.

P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or pdannunzio@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.