Jury sides with Gwyneth Paltrow in ski collision trial

Tribune Content Agency

A civil jury sided with Gwyneth Paltrow on Thursday, finding her not at fault in a Deer Valley Resort skiing collision with a retired doctor.

The jury found the former doctor, Terry Sanderson, completely responsible for the incident, awarding Paltrow $1 in damages, the amount the actress and wellness influencer had asked for in her counterclaim.

There was no disagreement that Paltrow and Sanderson had collided that day on the slopes. But throughout a civil trial over the past eight days, two wildly opposing narratives emerged.

Sanderson, who sued Paltrow, accused the Goop founder of negligence and slamming into his back on the slopes of Utah’s Deer Valley Resort, leaving him with broken ribs and brain injuries. His attorneys called on medical experts, relatives and friends, all of whom painted a picture of a man whose health and quality of life have deteriorated since the crash.

Paltrow’s attorneys countered by saying Sanderson struck the Oscar-winning actress. Paltrow testified, “Mr. Sanderson categorically hit me on that ski slope.” The defense also presented their own medical evidence that claim the 75-year-old man was simply succumbing to natural aging and health conditions that existed before the crash.

Jurors were left to choose which story to believe and whether Paltrow acted negligently during the collision, as the trial wrapped Thursday. The lawsuit, filed in 2019, originally sought $3 million, but is now seeking more than $300,000 in damages. Paltrow countersued for $1 and attorney fees.

Much of Sanderson’s argument leaned on the recollections of a ski acquaintance, Craig Ramon, who his attorneys claimed was the sole witness to the crash. In closing arguments, attorneys for Sanderson reminded the jury of Ramon’s testimony in which he said he saw a skier, later identified as Paltrow, “just slam into the back of Terry,” knocking him unconscious while the actress “bolted away.”

“He has no dog in the fight,” one of Sanderson’s lawyers, Robert Sykes, said of Ramons. “He’s independently wealthy. He has no reason, no motive to falsify this.”

Attorneys for Paltrow attempted to poke holes in Ramon’s testimony during their closing arguments by pointing to the absence of any facial injuries to Sanderson and the fact that his skis remained intact despite the apparently hard collision.

“It’s not a believable story,” said Stephen Owens, one of Paltrow’s lawyers.

The defense also played an animated reconstruction of the incident, based on testimony of Paltrow, her son Noah, and Eric Christensen, a ski instructor who was with the family on the slopes that day. The reconstruction showed Sanderson as the uphill skier.

The central question throughout the trial has been one of ski rules and etiquette, which gives the downhill skier the right of way and places the responsibility on the uphill skier to avoid anyone on their way down.

The trial, which has been broadcast live, has generated much public interest, even beyond the legalese of the case. There has been much buzz about Paltrow’s lament of losing “half a day of skiing,” when questioned on the reason for her counterclaim against Sanderson, with some laughing at the comment for being out-of-touch.

Then, there is the moment when Paltrow attempted to provide treats for the bailiffs, which the judge did not allow. Others have zoomed in on Paltrow’s courtroom fashion. Many fixated on seemingly endearing exchanges between one of Sanderson’s attorneys, Kristin Vanorman, and Paltrow, peppering compliments to each other between questioning.

Behind these memorable and memable moments were attempts by Sanderson’s attorneys to pain Paltrow as an entitled celebrity who is fleeing responsibility. And Paltrow’s attorneys have painted Sanderson as the one chasing celebrity, trying to milk money from a successful entrepreneur.