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Christian v. Atlantic Richfield Co.

Christian v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 2015 MT 255 (Sept. 1, 2015) (McKinnon, J.; Baker, J., concurring (2, 3, 4); Wheat, J., concurring (1, 2, 3) & dissenting (4); Rice, J., concurring (4) & dissenting (1)) (aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the continuing tort doctrine requires evidence of the continued migration of contaminants; (2) whether genuine issues of material fact exist regarding the reasonableness of abating the contamination on Landowners’ properties; (3) whether the continuing tort doctrine applies to Landowners’ claims other than nuisance and trespass; and (4) whether the facts constituting Landowners’ claims were concealed or self-concealing, or whether ARCO took action to prevent Landowners from learning those facts.

Short Answer: (1) No, migration is not the dispositive factor; the key to whether an injury is temporary or permanent is whether further abatement is reasonable (McKinnon, Cotter, Wheat, Shea, Manley) (Rice dissents) (5-1); (2) yes, reasonable abatability must be decided by the trier of fact (McKinnon, Cotter, Baker concurs in the judgment, Wheat, Shea, Manley) (6-0); (3) yes for continuing injuries caused by strict liability, negligence, and wrongful occupation, but not for unjust enrichment (McKinnon, Cotter, Baker, Wheat, Shea, Manley) (6-0); (4) no, and Landowners’ claims for unjust enrichment and constructive fraud are therefore time-barred (McKinnon, Cotter, Baker, Rice) (Wheat dissents, Shea & Manley join) (4-3).…