updated 6/4/2007 11:21:40 AM ET 2007-06-04T15:21:40

The widow of a leukemia victim failed to persuade the Supreme Court Monday to consider allowing her to sue oil companies over her husband’s exposure to a toxic chemical.

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The justices without comment declined to take up the case of Martha Jane Cline, who is trying to hold the companies accountable for her late husband’s health problems. Jack Cline, of Vance, Ala., died in January.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that he waited too long to sue, even though Cline didn’t know he was sick until after the deadline to sue had passed.

Alabama courts have held there is a two-year window period to file a lawsuit from the last exposure to toxic chemicals, but they also have held there must be an injury before a lawsuit is filed. There was never a time when Cline, a longtime chemist who blamed exposure to benzene for his illness, could have filed suit because the two-year deadline passed in 1989 and he wasn’t diagnosed with the disease until 1999.

Lawyers for Martha Cline argued to the high court that it should take up the case because it has long held that people must be given a reasonable amount of time to sue.

Jack Cline sued Ashland Inc., Chevron Phillips Chemical and Exxon Mobil over exposure to benzene, but state courts threw out the lawsuit.

The case is Cline v. Ashland, Inc., 06-1329.

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