Kevin Costner and Stephen Baldwin sat at opposite ends of a New Orleans courtroom on Monday, June 4. The two actors appeared in court as jury selection began for a potential multi-million dollar legal battle over a business deal stemming from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Costner and his partner Patrick Smith were sued by Baldwin and Spyridon Contogouris for allegedly tricking them into selling their shares in a company that made oil spill cleanup machines. They said they didn't know BP placed a $52 million order when they sold their stock.
The plaintiffs additionally accused Costner and Smith of deliberately excluding them from a June 8 meeting with British Petroleum executive Doug Suttles, who agreed to make an $18 million deposit to order 32 of their machines.
"They concealed the fact that BP looked favorably upon funding this," said James Cobb, a lawyer for Baldwin and Contogouris. The attorney told the jurors that it's a deception "fueled by power and greed." The plaintiffs are seeking more than $21 million in damages.
In the paperworks, Baldwin and Contogouris claimed Costner and Smith's lie has cost them millions of dollars. The 10% stake that Baldwin sold for $500,000 should have been worth $3.8 million, while the 28% stock sold by Contogouris for $1.4 million was worth $10.6 million.
Costner and his partner denied the claim. They insisted that Baldwin and Contogouris "hedged their bets" and sold their stock "with eyes wide open, to get out of a soured business relationship and to invest in other ventures." The defendants also are seeking damages in counterclaims.
"They want their cake and they want to eat it, too," Roy Cheatwood, an attorney for Smith, said of Baldwin and his pal. "They want the money they had and they want the money they chose not to risk." Wayne Lee, a lawyer for Costner, meanwhile, said, "Kevin Costner is here for one reason and one reason only: He's famous."
As a first witness, Smith said Contogouris was highly involved in the efforts to secure the deal with the oil company. The defendant insisted Contogouris had no one but himself to blame for missing the meeting with Suttles. "He exited on his own accord, prior to the meeting," Smith said.
Baldwin and Costner are expected to appear in court every day of the trial and to testify. U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman told jurors they could not be swayed by the defendant's and plaintiff's celebrity status. "Celebrity has no place in this courtroom or in any of the issues that need to be resolved," the judge said.
Baldwin refused to comment when contacted by The Associated Press. He said his attorneys had advised him to remain quiet.