Gwyneth Paltrow's ski collision trial ends, jury begins deliberating
A jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon in Gwyneth Paltrow's trial over a 2016 ski collision at a Utah resort.
The eight-person jury received the case following closing arguments in which attorneys delivered dueling versions of who was at fault in a crash that left retired optometrist Terry Sanderson with four broken ribs. Both sides have argued that their client was the downhill skier, making the other culpable according to a skier responsibility code.
After a judge dismissed his initial $3.1 million complaint, Sanderson amended and refiled the lawsuit seeking "more than $300,000" - a threshold that that provides the opportunity to introduce the most evidence and depose the most witnesses allowed in civil court. In response, Paltrow countersued for a symbolic $1 and attorney fees.
Paltrow's defense team used most of their final full day in control of the witness stand to call medical experts to testify. Sanderson's attorneys are expected to begin on Thursday morning by recalling their medical experts to rebut claims made by Paltrow's. Each side will then have roughly one hour to give the jury their closing arguments.
Paltrow's attorneys are expected to continue their two-pronged approach, both arguing that the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer didn't cause the accident and that its effects aren't as bad as the 76-year-old Sanderson claims. They've painted him as an "obsessed" man pushing "utter B.S." claims against someone whose fame makes them vulnerable to unfair, frivolous lawsuits.
Sanderson's team will likely cite how the man claiming to be the sole eyewitness testified to seeing Paltrow hit their client and continue spinning the case as a contemporary David versus Goliath tale in which Sanderson suffered injuries and had the courage to take on a movie star.
Sanderson testified Friday that he had continued to pursue damages seven years after the accident because the cascading events that followed - his post-concussion symptoms and the accusation that he sued to exploit Paltrow's celebrity - added insult to injury.
"That's the purpose: to make me regret this lawsuit. It's the pain of trying to sue a celebrity," he said on Wednesday in response to a question from his attorney about Paltrow's team probing his personal life, medical records and extensive post-crash international travel itinerary.
Though both sides have marshaled significant resources to emerge victorious, the verdict could end up being remembered as an afterthought dwarfed by the worldwide attention the trial has attracted. The amount of money at stake for both sides pales in comparison to the typical legal costs of a multiyear lawsuit, private security detail and expert witness-heavy trial.
With lengthy rosters of witnesses on call, attorneys have confronted difficult choices about how to juggle their hired experts with family members, doctors and testimony from Sanderson and Paltrow themselves.
Paltrow's defense team picked mostly experts to mount their final defense on Wednesday. They chose to call four medical experts to testify rather than Paltrow's husband, television producer Brad Falchuk.
In the final hour of their last full day to call witnesses, they called Sanderson back to the witness stand. A day earlier, they read depositions from Paltrow's two children - Apple and Moses - rather than calling them to testify as they earlier indicated they had planned.
Among the most bombshell testimony has been from Paltrow and Sanderson. On Friday members of the jury were riveted when Paltrow said on the stand that she initially thought she was being "violated" when the collision began. Three days later Sanderson gave an entirely different account, saying she ran into him and sent him "absolutely flying."
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.
The case hinges on which of the two parties acted in an unreasonable manner while on skis, experts told CBS MoneyWatch.
"When one skier hits another, the issue is negligence. Did they do something wrong?" said personal injury attorney Roger Kohn, of Kohn Rath Law.
As far as conduct on the ski slopes go, it's almost always the duty of the uphill skier to beware of the downhill skier. In other words, the downhill skier — the person who is further down the slope — has the right of way.
"The uphill skier has to watch out for the downhill skier. If you're overtaking someone and hit them, chances are you are liable and at fault," Kohn added.
The trial has also shone a spotlight on Park City, known primarily as a ski resort that welcomes celebrities like Paltrow for each year's Sundance Film Festival.
Local residents have increasingly filled the courtroom gallery throughout the trial. They've nodded along as lawyers and witnesses have referenced local landmarks like Montage Deer Valley, the ski-side hotel-spa where Paltrow got a massage after the collision. At times they have appeared captivated by Paltrow's reactions to the proceedings, while at others they have mirrored the jury, whose endurance has been tested by hours of jargon-dense medical testimony.
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