Kevin Costner ... grateful to clear his name. Photo: AP
A US jury has 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 clean-up 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.
We're disappointed. We thought we proved rather convincingly that these two guys, Mr Costner and Mr Smith, defrauded us
Their lawyer had asked the eight-member jury to award the plaintiffs more than $US17 million ($17.02 million) in damages.
Lost his case ... Stephen Baldwin, left. Photo: Reuters
That's how much they estimate they would have received if they hadn't sold their shares in a company that marketed oil-separating centrifuges to BP before the oil giant made an $US18 million deposit on a $US52 million order for 32 of the devices.
The jury gave them nothing.
Costner 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.
Contogouris and Baldwin sold their shares in Ocean Therapy Solutions for $US1.4 million and $US500,000, respectively. Baldwin testified he would have held out for much more if he had known BP had committed to ordering 32 centrifuges.
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.
Baldwin referred questions about the verdict to his attorney, James Cobb.
"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".