Baldwin loses case against Costner

 

A US jury has rejected claims that Kevin Costner and his business partner duped fellow actor Stephen Baldwin and a friend out of millions of dollars from a BP contract for using oil clean-up devices in the aftermath of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.

The New Orleans panel deliberated for less than two hours before delivering the verdict in the lawsuit brought by Baldwin and his friend, Spyridon Contogouris.

Their lawyer had asked the eight-member jury to award the plaintiffs more than $17 million US dollars (€14.25 million) in damages.

That is how much they estimate they would have received if they had not sold their shares in a company that marketed oil-separating centrifuges to BP before the oil giant made an $18 million dollar (€14.25 million) deposit on a $52 million (€41 million) order for 32 of the devices.

The jury gave them nothing.

Costner, who smiled and shook his lawyer’s hand after the verdict, said he was grateful for the opportunity to clear his name.

“My name means more to me than money and that’s why we didn’t settle,” he said shortly after the verdict.

Costner also praised the jury for “doing their best to understand everything” in a complex case.

“They were really smart, and it was my good luck that they saw the truth of the story,” he said.

Contogouris and Baldwin sold their shares in Ocean Therapy Solutions for $1.4 million dollars (€1.1 million) and $500,000 dollars (€396,110), respectively. Baldwin testified he would have held out for much more if he had known BP had committed to ordering 32 centrifuges.

Lawyers for Costner and Smith said Baldwin and Contogouris knew that BP was preparing to order the centrifuges when they sold their shares and walked away from the company rather than gamble for a more lucrative payout if BP signed a binding contract.

Baldwin’s lawyer James Cobb said: “We’re disappointed. We thought we proved rather convincingly that these two guys, Mr Costner and Mr Smith, defrauded us,” he said. “The jury saw it a different way but we respect the jury’s verdict.”

He also questioned whether celebrity was a factor in the outcome “because I believe we proved our case and because the bigger celebrity won.”

AP