Montana Supreme Court OKs lawsuit over fluctuating Flathead Lake levels

2012-12-30T14:30:00Z 2012-12-30T14:33:28Z Montana Supreme Court OKs lawsuit over fluctuating Flathead Lake levelsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
December 30, 2012 2:30 pm  • 

KALISPELL — The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that litigation concerning the Kerr Dam on Flathead Lake and possible damage to lakeshore property resulting from fluctuating lake levels can proceed as a class-action lawsuit.

The court on Thursday ruled 5-2 to overturn the finding of Flathead District Judge Kitty Curtis that the cause of the erosion would have to be shown individually for each property on the lake and on parts of the Flathead River.

The high court said damage caused by fluctuating lake levels has to be considered in aggregate because the level of the lake is uniform and cannot be adjusted for individual lakeshore properties.

"A class action is far superior, for purposes of fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy, to innumerable individual lawsuits," the court said.

But the high court also said any liability of defendants Montana Power Co. and PPL Montana would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

In its ruling, the court said the class-action lawsuit is for anybody who has owned property on the northwestern Montana lake or portions of the river since November 1991. That means about 3,000 properties with multiple owners could take part in the lawsuit, said the Chicago-based attorney representing property owners.

"There could be multiple owners associated with the 22 years of those properties," Jamie Franklin said. "All of those people would be class members. We will be proceeding on behalf of all those people and try to recover any damages they've incurred."

Litigation began in 1999 over the level of Flathead Lake, with plaintiffs led by north shore property owner Becky Mattson, who died at 88 in July 2010.

The property owners allege that Kerr Dam operations led to severe erosion around the lake by keeping the lake at artificially high levels, particularly during fall storms. The property owners said before the dam, the lake reached a peak elevation of 2,890 feet, while after the dam the lake at full pool elevation reached 2,893 feet. The dam was built in 1938.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian ( may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick