Gwyneth Paltrow may have lost half a day of skiing — and spent seven years fighting litigation — but she has won her contentious ski slope collision trial.
After eight days of testimony in Park City, Utah, the Oscar-winning actress and wellness mogul was found not liable in retired optometrist Dr. Terry Sanderson’s lawsuit claiming that she slammed into him at Deer Valley Resort in 2016 and caused his ongoing health issues. Paltrow countersued for a symbolic $1. The resulting courtroom battle turned what is typically an extremely common and minor ski run occurrence into an exhaustive — and occasionally rather silly — live-streamed spectacle, with a flurry of medical experts, ski resort staff, witnesses, and Paltrow herself taking the stand. Paltrow reacted soberly to the verdict being read, just nodding slightly. Sanderson hung his head.
During closing arguments, Paltrow’s attorney declared his client has been “pounded like a punching bag” throughout the trial. “[Sanderson] hit her, he hurt her, and he’s not entitled to be rewarded for hurting her,” Stephen Owens said.
During testimony, it emerged that Paltrow, 50, was a moderately experienced skier who was with her children and ski instructor on a beginner run, and was keeping to the side of the slope as appropriate for slower skiers. Sanderson, 76, was an experienced black diamond skier who lacks vision in his right eye. The two collided on the slope, with each presenting testimony claiming the other was the uphill — and therefore at fault — skier.
“[Sanderson’s] own daughter said he would be dishonest for notoriety or money,” Owens said Thursday. “He’s blind in his right eye. He says he uses the term [blind] ‘loosely’ – he’s an optometrist for heaven’s sake! … This a meritless claim. You don’t throw a $3 million bombshell in the courtroom, call [Paltrow] ‘King Kong’ and walk away. You shouldn’t reward that. And Gwyneth – who could have just paid the ransom – [told me] ‘No, I’m not going to have someone hurt me and then ask for a lot of money. I said, ‘You’re going to have to sit here for two weeks in Park City and you can’t even look at your phone.’ She said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ We asked you for a dollar. Not because she had to [stop skiing] early and get a massage, but because it screwed up a very carefully planned, important time in her life [with then-boyfriend Brad Falchuk and both their kids]. Thank heavens the family melded together. But we want our dollar.”
Owens also claimed Sanderson was wearing a GoPro that might have vindicated his client if footage hadn’t vanished, and also poked holes in Sanderson’s claim that the impact sent him flying through the air and left him unconscious for up to two minutes.
While Sanderson’s lawyer, Robert Sykes, during his closing argument, surprised by declaring, “I believe Gwyneth Paltrow … she says Terry hit me in the back .. I think she sincerely believes she got hit in the back … she’s not a liar. But a sincere belief doesn’t make it so. ”Yet Paltrow, he argued, was confused by the sudden impact and the jury should look at the evidence presented that supported his client. He also accused Deer Valley’s ski team in a “cover up” of what really happened to protect their famous, wealthy client, and contended it’s ridiculous that a man with four broken ribs would have told the ski patrol that he felt okay as claimed.
“Part of Terry will forever be on the Bandara run,” Sykes told the jury. “Bring Terry home.”
Sanderson’s other lawyer, Lawrence Buhler, suggested his client’s at time off-putting personality on the witness stand was also, in effect, Paltrow’s fault, and called his brain issues an “invisible” ailment. “When people get to know him, after a while, they don’t want to deal with him anymore,” Buhler said. “These are real injuries … Your personality changes permanently … You lose everybody who knows you. You lose everybody – your family, they’ll put up with you, and maybe the lawyers. But, really, they’re just putting up with you.” He suggested the jury award his client $3.2 million.
(Excerpt) Read more in: The Hollywood Reporter