8:57pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Kevin Costner to Take Stand in $21 Million Fight with Stephen Baldwin
An odd legal drama is set to unfold this week in federal court in New Orleans as actors Kevin Costner and Stephen Baldwin duke it out over tens of millions of dollars connected to a deal to create oil spill cleanup technology.
For years, Costner and partners WestPac Resources and Patrick Smith developed the technology behind an oil-extractor machine that could be used to help clean up potentially disastrous oil spills. Baldwin and his friend Spyridon Contogouris later joined the venture.
Then, when the massive Deepwater Horizon spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, Costner's technology became a hot property. He showcased the machines before Congress and ultimately signed a lucrative deal with BP, which paid an $18 million advance against $52 million worth of the oil-separating centrifuges to help clean up the Deepwater Horizon rig mess.
Enter Baldwin and Contogouris, who sued claiming they were squeezed out of millions when they sold their shares in the company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, for $1.4 million and $500,000, respectively, without knowing about the BP deal in the works. Baldwin and Contogouris are asking for $21 million in damages.
Costner has countersued. "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," states a Costner court filing, the AP reports.
The case has made it to a jury trial in federal court, which is expected to last about two weeks. Both Costner and Baldwin have been ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman to be present in the courtroom throughout the proceedings.
According to a trial management schedule obtained by THR, Costner is expected to testify for two to three hours, followed by several more hours of cross-examination by attorneys for PacWest, Smith and Costner himself. Baldwin is expected to testify for about one to two hours, followed by similar cross-examination.