A New Orleans, La., courtroom will be the setting for a real-life legal drama casting two Hollywood stars in adversarial roles.
Trial opened yesterday for Stephen Baldwin’s federal lawsuit against fellow actor Kevin Costner over their investments in a device that BP used in trying to clean up the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The lawsuit claims Costner and a business partner duped Baldwin and a friend out of their shares of an $18 million deal for BP to buy oil-separating centrifuges after the April 2010 spill.
Baldwin and his friend, Spyridon Contogouris, said they didn’t know about the deal when they agreed to sell their shares of Ocean Therapy Solutions, a company that marketed the centrifuges to BP, for $1.4 million and $500,000, respectively.
BP ordered 32 of the centrifuges, which separate oil from water, and deployed a few of the devices on a barge in June 2010. BP capped its blown-out Macondo well the following month and kept more oil from leaking until it was permanently sealed in September 2010.
Baldwin and Contogouris claim they were deliberately excluded from a June 8 meeting between Costner, his business partner Patrick Smith and BP executive Doug Suttles, who agreed to make an $18 million deposit on a $52 million order for the 32 devices, according to the lawsuit.
Later that month, Costner and Suttles visited Port Fourchon to talk about the plan to use the centrifuges.
“It was designed to give us a fighting chance, to fight back the oil before it got us by the throat,” Costner said at the time.
Baldwin and Contogouris say they were entitled to shares of BP’s deposit. Their suit claims Costner and Smith schemed to use BP’s deposit buy their shares in Ocean Therapy Solutions.
“The source of the funds to buy plaintiffs’ interest was never disclosed to them, and OTS funds were secretly and improperly converted to effect the purchase,” a plaintiffs’ summary of the case says.
Costner said he didn’t attend a June 6, 2010, meeting at which Contogouris agreed to sell his OTS interests.
“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,” says a court filing summarizing Costner’s version of events.
Baldwin and Contogouris are seeking more than $21 million in damages. Costner and other defendants also are seeking damages in counterclaims.
Costner and Baldwin are expected to testify during the jury trial, which is scheduled to last about two weeks. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled last month that all of the litigants must attend the trial for its duration “because of the seriousness of the claims and issues raised by the parties” and in case a mid-trial settlement is discussed.
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