By Leslie Snadowsky
NEW ORLEANS, June 14 (Reuters) - A U.S. jury ruled on Thursday in favor of actor Kevin Costner in a lawsuit in which fellow actor Stephen Baldwin accused him of cheating in a multimillion-dollar deal to sell oil cleanup devices to BP Plc after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The federal lawsuit brought against Costner by Baldwin and business partner Spyridon C. Contogouris claimed Costner cheated them by hiding details of a deal with BP before they sold their stake in the company marketing the oil-cleaning devices.
“My name means more to me than money,” the 57-year-old actor told reporters after the ruling by the 8-person jury, wearing a tan striped blazer and sunglasses.
“That’s why we wanted to get to the truth of this,” said Costner, who starred in “Field of Dreams,” “The Untouchables,” “The Bodyguard” and “Dances With Wolves,” which won him Oscars for best picture and best director.
Baldwin and Contogouris had sought about $17 million from Costner and his business partner, Patrick Smith. The jury, which deliberated for less than two hours, made no award of damages.
Costner’s attorneys argued that Baldwin and Contogouris were not entitled to any payments because they sold their shares in the company before the deal with BP was sealed.
Plaintiffs’ attorney James Cobb had repeatedly accused Costner and Smith of lying about the nature of his communication with BP executives before they sealed the deal.
“The bigger celebrity won,” Cobb told reporters.
Baldwin, 46, the younger brother of film and TV star Alec Baldwin, is known for roles in “The Usual Suspects” and “Flyboys.” He gave no comment to reporters as he left the courtroom after the verdict was read.
In the deal, BP agreed to make an $18 million deposit for the $52 million order for 32 oil and water separation devices. Baldwin and Contogouris claim they were duped out of part of BP’s $18 million deposit.
“We thought that we proved that Kevin Costner ... made misrepresentations about the status of the company,” Cobb said. “The jury did not.”
Both actors once invested in Ocean Therapy Solutions, the company that acquired the rights to sell the oil-separating centrifuges. Baldwin said he was a major force in promoting the devices, which he hoped to showcase in a documentary about the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
BP never used the oil separators because the company sealed the blown-out Macondo well before they could be delivered.
The case is Contogouris et al v. WestPac Resources, LLC et al, U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 2:10-cv-04609.