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Jury sides with Costner in BP spill lawsuit
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal jury late Thursday 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 cleanup devices in the aftermath of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.
The 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 in damages.
The jury gave them nothing.
Costner, who smiled and shook his attorney’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 and $500,000, respectively. Baldwin testified he would have held out for much more if he had known BP had committed to ordering 32 oil-separating centrifuges.
They were trying to collect $17 million in damages because they estimate it’s how much they would have received if they hadn’t sold their shares in the company that marketed the centrifuges to BP before the oil giant made an $18 million deposit on a $52 million order.
Attorneys 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. At the time they sold their shares, BP only had signed a non-binding letter of intent, the defendants’ attorneys said.
“We’re disappointed. We thought we proved rather convincingly that these two guys, Mr. Costner and Mr. Smith, defrauded us,” Cobb said. “The jury saw it a different way but we respect the jury’s verdict.”
Cobb also questioned whether celebrity was a factor in the outcome “because I believe we proved our case and because the bigger celebrity won.”
Earlier Thursday, during the trial’s closing arguments, Cobb told jurors they probably see the case as a “bunch of rich people fighting over money I’ll never, ever see.” Cobb, however, said his clients deserved to be compensated for being lied to by Costner and business partner Patrick Smith and defrauded out of their fair share of the BP money.
“I had no idea the spider’s web of deception could be so pervasive and so hard to unravel,” Cobb said.
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