Opportunity plaintiffs settle ARCO lawsuit after 13 years


The lawsuit dragged on for nearly 13 years. It pitted plaintiffs who were residents of Opportunity or Crackerville against the Atlantic Richfield Co. The focus of the David v. Goliath litigation was smelter waste contaminating the rural communities’ soils and threatening residents’ wells.

The 98 contamination-weary residents had filed the suit in April 2008 against ARCO, a subsidiary of BP America. The plaintiffs claimed common law trespass, nuisance and strict liability against ARCO and sought restoration damages to pay for a more thorough cleanup than what was planned by ARCO under a federal Superfund remedy.

The case wound through an impressive array of state and federal courts. The Montana Supreme Court weighed in twice about lower court rulings and the case ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 before ultimately concluding in a Montana district court.

The civil lawsuit, filed as Gregory Christian, et al. v. Atlantic Richfield Co., ended quietly in March when District Court Judge Katherine Bidegaray dismissed the case. The judge’s order referenced a settlement among the parties but provided no details of that agreement. She wrote that the motion to vacate the case was jointly filed.

Lawyer Mark Kovacich and his firm Odegaard Kovacich Snipes, as

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