Gwyneth Paltrow’s attorney called the story of a retired optometrist who is suing her over a skiing collision in 2016 “complete nonsense” on Tuesday, the opening day of the Utah trial.
Terri Sanderson claims that the actor-turned-powerman was so reckless down the slopes that they violently collided, leaving him on the ground as she and her entourage continued their descent down Deer Valley Resort, a ski-only mountain known for its well-groomed jogging tracks, après-ski champagne yurts and a chic clientele.
“Gwyneth Paltrow went out of control,” Sanderson’s lawyers argue in the lawsuit, “bringing him hard to the ground, knocking him out and causing a head injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries. Sanderson is stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured.”
In a case that has dragged on for years, Sanderson is suing Paltrow for $300,000, alleging that the Park City accident resulted from negligence and caused him bodily harm and emotional distress.
Sanderson and Paltrow showed up at the Park City Courthouse Tuesday to begin the trial, which will last more than a week. A grim Paltrow, dressed in a beige knitted sweater, tweed bloomers and aviator-style reading glasses, shielded her face from reporters and photographers with a blue notebook with the initials “GP” as she entered and exited the courtroom.
Park City is a resort town in the Rocky Mountains that hosts the Sundance Film Festival, which attracts many celebrities every year.
On ski slopes, Utah law gives right-of-way to the downhill skier, so the central question in this case is who was further down the beginner’s trail when the collision occurred. Both Paltrow and Sanderson state in court papers that they were further downhill when the other ran into them, causing their skis to become intertwined and both of them to fall.
“All skiers know that when they come down a mountain, they have to give way to the skiers below them,” Sanderson’s lawyer Lawrence Buehler told the jury, who — unlike those chosen for most of the trials — entered the Courtroom. smiles, probably due to their proximity to a major celebrity.
In opening arguments, both sides presented their clients as conservative skiers who were stunned when the skier above them crashed into them. Both described each other’s version of events as implausible.
Buhler described Paltrow as wealthy, while highlighting Sanderson’s military service and how he sought medical attention at a Virginia state hospital after the collision.
“She hires several ski instructors for her kids so they don’t have to wait in line. Private instructors cost thousands of dollars a day,” he said.
On Tuesday, Paltrow’s lawyers told jurors that Sanderson was the one who slammed into her — an impact in which she received what they called a “full-body punch.” Attorney Steve Owens noted that members of the Paltrow group checked on Sanderson, who assured them he was fine — an interaction that Sanderson does not deny, but said in court papers that he could not remember.
Displaying images of Paltrow in a chairlift with his son on a projector, Paltrow’s attorney warned jurors not to let sympathy for Sanderson’s medical ailments skew their judgement. He questioned the credibility of the 76-year-old man, noting his age and documented brain injuries prior to the collision. He said the Utah man confirmed he was fine after the crash. Owens also said that Sanderson posted a “very happy, smiling photo” online of him sledding after the accident.
“His memory of the case has improved over the years. That’s all I want to say. That’s not how memory works,” Owens said.
After his original $3.1 million lawsuit was dismissed, Sanderson changed the complaint and he is now seeking $300,000. Paltrow, the Oscar-winning actress best known for her roles in Shakespeare in Love and Marvel’s Iron Man, has filed a counterclaim seeking attorney’s fees and $1 in damages.
Paltrow claimed that Sanderson was in fact the cause of the collision, exaggerating her injuries and trying to exploit her fame and wealth. In addition to her acting career, she is also the founder and CEO of goop, an upscale wellness company.
“He demanded that Ms. Paltrow pay him millions. If she does not pay, she will face negative publicity as a result of his allegations,” her lawyers wrote in a 2019 lawsuit.