Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow is facing trial over a 2016 skiing accident in Utah. The lawsuit was filed by a retired ophthalmologist who claims he sustained serious injuries in the accident.
Terry Sanderson, 76, says Paltrow’s attention was distracted and she caused the accident. Sanderson is seeking $300,000 in damages.
Paltrow, 50, denies the charge and has filed a counterclaim demanding $1 plus attorneys’ fees.
The civil case relies on the testimonies of its multiple characters. Who are the parties to this case?
Sanderson first sued Paltrow in 2019, three years after the incident.
The retired ophthalmologist, who says he has never been injured in the 30 years he has been skiing, accuses the Oscar-winning actress of being “reckless” as she rushed him from behind on a slope at the elegant Deer Valley resort in western Utah.
Attorneys for Sanderson, who was 69 at the time, allege Paltrow was distracted by her children and fell on top of him, then left him “on the ice” without calling for help.
Sanderson claimed that the February 2016 accident led to his loss of consciousness, and that he suffered a brain injury and fractures in four ribs, in addition to “loss of enjoyment of life, psychological anxiety and deformity.”
Sanderson initially sought $3.1 million in damages for what he considers a “running collision”, but this lawsuit was dismissed last May.
Paltrow, a movie star who has also become a social media influencer, dismisses the plaintiff’s version of events and claims he bumped into her directly from behind.
Paltrow took the stage on Friday and testified that she was skiing down a slope when she saw a pair of skis appear between her skis, heard “strange rubbing” sounds and felt a body pressing against her from behind.
Her first impression was that she had been sexually assaulted, she said, claiming that they fell to the ground together, skis got tangled, and they were “almost hugging from behind”.
Paltrow told the court she yelled obscenities at Sanderson and did not ask him if he was okay because she felt “hurt and violated”. The accident left Paltrow with knee pain, but no other injuries.
Her lawyers say Sanderson sued because she was a celebrity. They also blame the accident in part on Sanderson’s many pre-existing medical conditions, including hearing and vision loss from a stroke.
Two of the Sanderson daughters, Polly Sanderson Grasham and Shay Herath, testified last week that their father had changed dramatically after the accident.
Polly Sanderson Grasham said the man who was once “extroverted” and “sociable” was now “restless” and “easily frustrated”.
She tearfully recounted a particular incident in which he was so upset that she “expected drool to drip out of his mouth” and realized he had “a terrible bug”.
But she also said her father became “obsessed” with getting an apology from Paltrow.
On Friday, Paltrow’s attorneys questioned Herath about emails exchanged with her father. The lawyers said an email from her father was titled “I’m famous…at what cost?”, in which Sanderson said it was “cool” he bumped into a celebrity.
Herath said that Sanderson “no longer feels confident and safe” and “no longer trusts his brain,” adding that his granddaughter no longer wants to be near him because he has become so verbally abused and insulted.
“This is not my father. This is an alternate version of my father,” she said.
The defense will call Paltrow’s sons, Apple, 18, and Mazes, 16, and her husband, Brad Falchuk, to testify this week.
The court heard that Paltrow organized the ski trip so her sons could “merge” with Falchuk, the television producer and writer she married in 2018, and that she paid more than $9,000 for private ski lessons at the resort that day.
Sanderson’s attorneys alleged that Moses, who was nine at the time, shouted “Mom, Mom, look at me” and his mother turned her head to the side to look at him before the accident.
Sanderson’s attorneys called four doctors to appear as expert witnesses to support their client’s case.
Dr Alina Fung, a neuropsychologist, said Sanderson had been “suffering from concussion symptoms for a year and a half” when she first saw him in May 2017.
She claimed the symptoms included “mood and personality changes, pain as well as headaches” and that those symptoms “completely changed his life”.
Dr. Sam Goldstein, another neuropsychologist, said the difficulties he noticed in Sanderson were “the kind of things you understand better if you follow someone closely for a couple of weeks.”
Dr. Wendell Gibby, a neuroradiologist who reviewed Sanderson’s medical record, described him as an intelligent man who had clearly lost “the ability to act”.
He added, “The sudden change in performance [ساندرسون] His demeanor and ability to interact with people was nothing caused by his previous circumstances.”
The collision was captured by a GoPro camera, but the footage was not found or included as evidence in the trial.
Paltrow’s legal team called the footage the “most important piece of evidence” for the trial, stating it would prove that Paltrow was at a point on the slope below Sanderson and that, according to skiing etiquette, Paltrow had the right of way first.
The reasons for the disappearance of the footage, if any, are not clear, but there was at least one eyewitness to the incident.
An acquaintance of Sanderson’s, Craig Ramone, 58, told the court Tuesday that they were skating together when he heard a scream and saw Paltrow “hit Sanderson right in the back.”
Ramon testified that the crash knocked his friend “to the ground face down, hands spread out, and Gwyneth was on top of him,” but Paltrow pulled away from him and rushed from the scene while Sanderson lay unconscious.