Jury sides with Kevin Costner in BP oil spill cleanup case
Kevin Costner prevailed in a court case brought against him by Stephen Baldwin, who claimed his fellow actor cheated him out of millions of dollars when he sold dozens of water-cleaning centrifuge devices to BP during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Mr. Baldwin claimed he and his friend Spyridon Contogouris, who was a fellow plaintiff in the case, didn’t know about a $52-million deal when they sold their shares of Ocean Therapy Solutions (OTS) – Mr. Costner’s company that specializes in making devices to separate oil from water using centrifugal force. Mr. Costner bought the company from the U.S. government in 1995 for $24 million in the hope of expediting future oil spill cleanups after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989.
Mr. Baldwin testified he would not have sold his shares to Mr. Costner for $1.4 million had he known BP ordered 32 of the devices, which BP used in removing some of the oil from the Gulf waters. After Mr. Baldwin sold his shares, BP put down $18 million on its $52-million order. Mr. Contogouris sold his shares of the company back to Mr. Costner for $500,000.
Mr. Costner’s attorneys argued that Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Contogouris knew when they sold their shares that BP was considering ordering some of the machines from Ocean Therapy Solutions. At that time, BP had signed a non-binding letter of intent to purchase. However, the plaintiffs opted to sell and walk away rather than hold their shares and risk BP choosing not to sign a binding contract. Mr. Costner lost about $20 million in failed efforts to sell the centrifuges to the oil and gas industry before the BP oil spill.
According to court papers, Mr. Costner said he did not attend the meeting in which the plaintiffs agreed to sell their interest in the company. “Not only did Costner not know that Plaintiffs were negotiating to sell their OTS interests, he was surprised and offended by the idea that Contogouris and Baldwin would walk away from OTS with almost $2 million in cash despite having invested no money in the company, and at a time when a contract with BP was uncertain to materialize.”
The jurors deliberated for less than two hours after the two-week trial, which presiding judge Martin Feldman ordered Mr. Costner and Mr. Baldwin to attend every day. After the jury handed its decision to the judge, Mr. Costner looked relieved as he left the courtroom.
“My name means more to me than money and that’s why we didn’t settle,” Mr. Costner said.
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