Trial Opens in Suit Against Costner Over BP Deal

lawsuitNEW ORLEANS (AP) - Kevin Costner's fame is the only reason fellow Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin and another person sued Costner over their investments in an oil cleanup device tried out after BP's spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Costner's attorney said as trial opened in the multimillion-dollar business dispute.

Baldwin and friend Spyridon Contogouris claim Costner and business partner Patrick Smith duped them of their shares of an $18 million deal for BP to buy oil-separating centrifuges after the April 2010 oil spill.

Costner's attorney, Wayne Lee, said his client played no role in Baldwin and Contogouris' decision to sell their shares in a company that marketed the centrifuges to the energy company for $1.4 million and $500,000, respectively.

"Kevin Costner is here for one reason and one reason only: He's famous," Lee said in opening statements.

Plaintiffs' attorney James Cobb accused Costner and Smith of spinning a web of lies that cheated his clients out of millions of dollars, telling the eight jurors that the case is about deception "fueled by power and greed."

Baldwin and Contogouris are seeking more than $21 million in damages. Costner and other defendants also are seeking damages in counterclaims.

U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman told jurors they could not be swayed by the celebrity status of Baldwin and Costner, who sat at opposite ends of the courtroom and didn't interact.

"Celebrity has no place in this courtroom or in any of the issues that need to be resolved," the judge said.

Among Baldwin's roles was caveman Barney Rubble in "The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas." Costner's films include the Academy Award-winning "Dances with Wolves," as well as "Bull Durham," ''Field of Dreams," ''No Way Out," ''The Bodyguard," and "JFK," Oliver Stone's conspiracy film about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Lee said Costner, who had lost roughly $20 million in an earlier effort to market the centrifuge technology to the oil and gas industry, decided to lobby BP to use the devices after the oil spill because he wanted to help protect the Gulf Coast from the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

"No good deed goes unpunished," Lee said.

Baldwin and Costner are expected to testify at trial. Baldwin told The Associated Press his attorneys had advised him not to comment.

At the height of BP's efforts to stop the massive flow of oil from its blown-out well, the company ordered 32 of the centrifuges and deployed a few of the machines on a barge in June 2010. BP capped the well the following month and the well was permanently sealed in September 2010.

Baldwin and Contogouris claim they were deliberately excluded from a June 8 meeting between Costner, Smith and BP executive Doug Suttles, who agreed to make an $18 million deposit on a $52 million order for the 32 machines.

As the trial's first witness, Smith said Contogouris was highly involved in the efforts to secure a deal with BP and only has himself to blame for missing the June 8 meeting with Suttles.

"He exited on his own accord, prior to the meeting," Smith said.

Cobb said his clients said they didn't know about the deal when they agreed to sell their combined 38 percent ownership stake in Ocean Therapy Solutions for $1.9 million.

"They concealed the fact that BP looked favorably upon funding this," Cobb said.

Cobb said "insult was added to injury" when Costner and Smith used BP's deposit to buy out Baldwin and Contogouris' shares in OTS.

Smith's attorney, Roy Cheatwood, said Baldwin and Contogouris "hedged their bets" and sold their shares before BP committed to the deal.

"They want their cake and they want to eat it, too," Cheatwood said. "They want the money they had and they want the money they chose not to risk."

Pacific West Resources, a company operated by Costner and Smith, also is a defendant in the case.

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Let the Hollywood cat fights start. Since neither of them did much to help the gulf clean itself up may they both lose more than they would have made. mayeb they can star in a movie about who is the biggest sleazeball in hollywood. there has to be better news than this out there.

June 05 2012 at 11:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Kinda hard for me to relate to (or sympathize with) either of them. I mean, a few million, yeah, that's normal, but $18-20M? A little deeper than my checkbook I'm afraid.

June 05 2012 at 7:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

can't stand the Baldwins. Kevin Coster is an admirable and decent man in my book!

June 05 2012 at 7:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I guess another Baldwin is not getting the acting roles they want any longer.

June 05 2012 at 6:58 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Why have a trial? Just let the jurors read the posted comments on here (which no doubt are all factual) and come to a verdict based on that.

June 05 2012 at 6:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Darryl Crawford

The product was only good for collecting small oil spills anyway! It failed to serve it purpose! Back to the drawing board boys!

June 05 2012 at 6:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Darryl Crawford

If you going to add your name to a product and represent the product then you should also be as laible as the owner of the product. I saw Costner at the OTC in Houston, Texas a couple of years ago and he was pusing this commodity at the Oil Show. If Costner pockets one dime from this product or hold shares in the company then he is responsible for his actions and celebrity status in backing the company also.

June 05 2012 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hope costner comes out ahead

June 05 2012 at 6:43 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

It appears, it's still ALL about the $$ and not helping mothe gaia. I knew there was a reason I dislike Hollywood!

June 05 2012 at 6:43 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Let's see- Costner or Baldwin? One, the best actor of his timne, the other, a loudmouth, liberal jackass. You do the math.

June 05 2012 at 6:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply