New Orleans—Facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, actor Kevin Costner told a jury he was heartbroken as he watched millions of gallons of oil spew into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and that he headed to New Orleans to see if cleanup devices he helped develop could aid the recovery effort.
Costner took the stand for about an hour at a civil trial centred on the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.
The suit, brought by actor Stephen Baldwin and friend Spyridon Contogouris, claims Costner and his business partner, Patrick Smith, duped them of their share of an $18-million deal for oil and gas giant British Petrol (BP) to buy the oil-separating centrifuges after the 2010 oil spill.
Costner’s attorney, Wayne Lee, has said his client played no role in Baldwin’s and Contogouris’ decision to sell their shares, for $1.4-million and $500,000, respectively, in a company that marketed the centrifuges to BP.
Costner said he has a passion for environmental technology and enjoys supporting the work of engineers and scientists.
He said he went to New Orleans after the oil spill to see if technology he was invested in could be used to aid cleanup efforts.
“I came down mostly because of the legacy of the (oil cleanup) machine and because the Gulf was in trouble,” Costner said.
James Cobb, attorney for both plaintiffs, told jurors Costner and Smith spun a web of lies that cheated his clients out of millions of dollars and that the case is about deception “fueled by power and greed.”
Baldwin and Contogouris are seeking more than $21-million in damages.
Costner and other defendants are seeking damages in counterclaims.
At the height of BP’s efforts to stop the massive flow of oil from its blown-out well, the company ordered 32 of the centrifuges and deployed a few of the machines on a barge in June 2010.
BP capped the well the following month and permanently sealed it in September 2010.
Baldwin and Contogouris claim they were deliberately excluded from a June 8, 2010 meeting of Costner, Smith and BP executive Doug Suttles, who agreed to make an $18-million deposit on a $52-million order for the 32 machines.
Cobb has said his clients didn’t know about the deal when they agreed to sell their combined 38 per cent ownership stake in Ocean Therapy Solutions for $1.9-million.
Pacific West Resources, a company operated by Costner and Smith, is also a defendant in the case.