The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that actor Kevin Costner did not breach a contract with an artist when he placed commissioned sculptures of bison and American Indians at a different site than was originally planned.
The Hollywood superstar, who filmed much of his Academy Award-winning movie "Dances with Wolves" in South Dakota, paid Peggy Detmers $300,000 to make 17 bronze sculptures for a resort called The Dunbar he planned to build on the edge of the Black Hills gambling town of Deadwood. The resort never was built and the sculptures instead are at his Tatanka attraction near the proposed resort site.
A later contract said if the resort was not built within 10 years or the sculptures were not "agreeably displayed elsewhere," the sculptures would be sold with Costner and Detmers sharing the proceeds.
Detmers said she spent more than six years creating the sculptures and gave Costner a price break because she anticipated selling smaller reproductions of the sculptures at the resort.
The artist contended in a lawsuit filed in 2008 that because The Dunbar was not built and the sculptures were not "agreeably displayed elsewhere," the artwork should be sold and she should get 50 percent of the sale proceeds.
But a circuit judge ruled in July that Detmers indicated her approval of the Tatanka location by participating in the site's development and several events related to its opening in 2003. The Tatanka site, located next to the land where Costner had planned to build The Dunbar, houses the sculptures, a museum and a visitor center.
Detmers argued that she agreed to the placement of the sculptures at the Tantanka site because she was under the impression The Dunbar would still be built.
The Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Circuit Judge Randall L. Macy's finding that Detmers never received any promise or guarantee that the resort would be built. Detmers knew the resort's future was questionable, the high court said.
The justices also upheld the trial judge's ruling that the sculptures have been "agreeably displayed elsewhere," and that the Tatanka site was separate from the Dunbar site.
Detmer's lawyer, Andy Damgaard of Sioux Falls, said he is disappointed but accepts the Supreme Court's ruling.
"At this point, we know we did everything we could do," Damgaard said.
Kyle Wiese of Rapid City, one of Costner's lawyers, said he had no immediate comment on the ruling.