A trial pitting the Oscar-winning actor Gwyneth Paltrow against a retired optometrist who accuses her of violently crashing into him in a 2016 ski accident began on Tuesday in Utah.
An attorney for Paltrow called the accusation “utter BS”.
The dispute stems from a crash more than seven years ago between Paltrow and Terry Sanderson, 76, at an upscale ski resort. Attorneys for Sanderson argue that Paltrow’s negligence caused the collision and left him severely injured.
“It’s the uphill skiers’ responsibility to yield the right of way to the people below … especially on a beginner run,” said Robert Sykes, an attorney. “They know skiers may be less experienced and that skiers below them trust that the ones coming behind are paying attention.”
The trial began in the courtroom of the Park City judge Kent R Holmberg. A jury of six women and four men were sworn in, KSL, an NBC affiliate, reported.
Paltrow arrived with a bodyguard, the New York Post reported. Holmberg reiterated courthouse rules and noted that photo, video and mobile devices were only allowed for approved members of the media, KUTV reported.
Holmberg told attendees the bailiff had removed one person taking pictures without approval. Those photos were deleted. The judge also reminded reporters they were not allowed to move from assigned spots and recording devices could not make noise.
Paltrow and Sanderson sat across from each other as their attorneys gave opening arguments. Both described their clients as victims.
The two showed little emotion as attorneys questioned their credibility. A somber-looking Paltrow – wearing a beige knit sweater, tweed harem pants and aviator-style reading glasses – wrote in a blue “GP”-initialed notebook.
The trial was expected to last a little more than a week.
Sanderson contends that on 26 February 2016, Paltrow was cruising down the slopes so recklessly that they collided, leaving him on the ground as she and her entourage continued their descent at Deer Valley Resort, a mountain known for its groomed runs, après-ski champagne yurts and posh clientele.
“Gwyneth Paltrow skied out of control,” Sanderson’s attorneys claim in their lawsuit, “knocking him down hard, knocking him out, and causing a brain injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries. Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured.”
Sanderson is suing Paltrow for $300,000, claiming the accident was a result of negligence and left him physically injured and emotionally distressed.
Park City is a mountain resort which hosts the Sundance film festival.
The case could turn on determining whether Paltrow or Sanderson were further down the beginner’s run when the collision transpired. Both claim in court filings they were further downhill and therefore had the right of way.
Sanderson also accused Deer Valley and its employees of engaging in a “cover-up” by not providing complete information on reports about the accident and not following safety policies. Deer Valley was once a party in the suit but has been dismissed from the case, KUTV reported.
Sanderson initially sued for $3.1m but some demands were dropped by the court in May 2022, with the amount sought amended to $300,000. Paltrow countersued, demanding attorney’s fees and $1m in damages.
She not only alleges Sanderson was at fault for a collision which dealt her a “full body blow”. She also accuses him of exaggerating his injuries and of wanting to exploit her fame and wealth. Her countersuit says her group checked on Sanderson after the crash. Sanderson, who had 15 documented medical conditions at the time, said he was fine, according to Paltrow’s legal team.
In court, Paltrow attorney’s Steve Owens noted that Sanderson doesn’t deny that interaction but said in court filings that he cannot remember it.
Showing images on a projector of Paltrow on a chairlift with her son, Paltrow’s attorney cautioned jurors not to let sympathy for Sanderson’s ailments skew their judgments.
He questioned the 76-year-old’s credibility, noting his age and documented, pre-collision brain injuries. Owens also said Sanderson posted a “very happy, smiling picture” of himself online, being tobogganed down the slope after the crash.
“His memories of the case get better over the years,” Owens said. “That’s all I’m gonna say. That’s not how memory works.”