Gwyneth Paltrow ski collision trial continues as man accusing her of crashing into him takes the stand
The man claiming Gwyneth Paltrow ran into him on a ski slope seven years ago took the stand Monday, after the Hollywood star and lifestyle influencer's testimony in what is expected to be an eight-day trial.
Paltrow, 50, told the Utah jury unequivocally Friday that Terry Sanderson, 76, collided with her from behind on the slope at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. Sanderson, a retired optometrist, initially sued her for more than $3 million in damages, an amount later reduced to $300,000. Paltrow is counter-suing for $1 and attorneys fees.
Sanderson, who described himself as a careful and frequent skier, described the incident as he recalled it, including seeing signs warning skiers to slow down.
"I heard something I had never heard at a ski resort — a blood-curdling scream," he said. He said he assumed someone was out of control.
"I got hit in my back so hard, and right at my shoulder blades. It felt like it was perfectly centered, the fists and the poles were right there, at my shoulder blades. Serious, serious smack. I've never been hit that hard," he said Monday. He said the impact sent him "flying" and that all he saw was snow as he went out of control. The last thing he remembered, he said, was thinking he should protect his face and head.
When his attorney asked if things in his life had changed following the accident, he replied in the affirmative. "I'm like living another life now," he said.
He said he can't ski anymore as a result of his injuries, which he said included four broken ribs and a concussion.
Sanderson was brought to tears throughout his testimony Monday, particularly when he appeared unable to focus or remember things.
His legal team attempted to present his confusion and memory lapses to support their brain-damage argument. Paltrow's lawyers used it to undercut his reliability as a witness.
Sanderson's testimony also resurfaced questions about the potential that a GoPro helmet camera may have documented the crash. Though no footage made it into evidence for the trial, attorneys have repeatedly questioned witnesses about an email one of his daughters sent that said: "I also can't believe this is all on GoPro."
That daughter, Shae Herath, testified last week that her words were mere speculation that someone on the upscale mountain must be outfitted with a helmet camera because they are a fixture at ski resorts.
Paltrow's attorneys have continued to raise questions about what happened to the footage that Sanderson and his family members referred to.
It became clear Monday the potentially explosive evidence wouldn't explode.
Judge Kent Holmberg said online sleuths had found the link and that its contents would be included as evidence. It didn't contain GoPro footage. Instead, it was to a chat between members of Sanderson's ski group, in which Craig Ramon — the man claiming to be the crash's sole eyewitness — said on the day of the crash that Paltrow had crashed into Sanderson.
"Terry was knocked out cold. Bad hit to the head!" Ramon wrote. "I did see the hit. Terry did not know his name."
The exchange made clear that Ramon thought Paltrow crashed into Sanderson years before any lawsuit was filed. It also shows Sanderson and those skiing with him knew the woman in the crash was Paltrow.
Earlier testimony had also focused on Sanderson's health. Witnesses, including his doctor and his daughters, have testified about Sanderson's medical problems, including brain injury symptoms and broken bones.
After four-and-a-half days of Sanderson's attorneys calling witnesses, Paltrow's defense team has equal time to present their case. They brought one of her family's four ski instructors to the stand Monday afternoon. Attorneys said Monday that Paltrow's two teenage children, Moses and Apple, would have their depositions read into the record later in the week instead of appearing in court on the witness stand.
Jurors sat transfixed as Paltrow's attorneys played computer animated reconstructions of how they say the collision occurred, with high enough resolution to show trees, children's ski coats and multiple vantage points.
For their first witness, the defense called Eric Christiansen, a mustachioed 40-year veteran ski instructor who was giving a lesson to Paltrow's family at Deer Valley Resort the day of the collision. He said he was monitoring much of the mountain during the exact moment Sanderson and Paltrow collided and didn't see the moment of impact but saw what happened immediately before and after.
In testimony that wandered into instruction about skiing technique, Christiansen said Paltrow was making "short radius turns" while Sanderson was skiing down the groomed run "edge to edge" and "quite dynamically."
He said he remembered Paltrow landed on top of Sanderson because he approached and took her skis off, then Sanderson's.
"I believe you told me once if a soccer player takes out someone's legs, they're underneath," Paltrow's attorney, Steve Owens, said as he asked questions about the crash.
Paltrow's attorneys plan to depose a slate of medical experts who are expected to undercut testimony from the neurologists, radiologists and psychologists hired by Sanderson's team.
The trial has also touched on the habits and hobbies of wealthy people like Sanderson and Paltrow, as well as the power — and burden — of celebrity. The amount of money at stake for both sides pales in comparison to the typical legal costs of a multiyear lawsuit, expert witnesses, a private security detail and high-resolution animation.
Much of the questioning throughout the trial's first five days has revolved around Sanderson's motivation for suing Paltrow. Her attorneys have argued the lawsuit is an attempt by an "obsessed" man to exploit Paltrow's wealth and fame. Sanderson's attorneys have attempted to paint Paltrow as a carefree movie star who hurt an aging man and is unwilling to take responsibility for the fallout.
"No one believed how serious my injuries were," said Sanderson, who enjoyed wine tasting and international travel before the crash. "There was lots of insults added to that singular incident."
Attorneys are trying to establish whether Sanderson or Paltrow was uphill at the time of the crash, a point of ski etiquette that will also likely determine who is liable for the accident. Paltrow said Friday that Sanderson skied into her back.
Paltrow was called by Sanderson's attorneys. Her attorneys are expected to call her children, Moses and Apple, and now-husband, Brad Falchuck, later in the trial.
for more features.