Gwyneth Paltrow has successfully won the high profile court case in which she counter-sued a man who had brought proceedings against her, after a ski crash at a resort in Utah back in 2016.
Retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, now 76-years-old, but then 69, was seeking $300,000 (£245,000) in damages, stating that through Ms Paltrow’s irresponsible and reckless behaviour on the slopes, she had inflicted physical and emotional injuries upon him, which he claimed were life-altering.
He insisted that she had crashed into the back of him on a ski slope at Deer Valley Park after she was “distracted” leaving him with a brain trauma and broken ribs. However, the Sliding Doors star put forward a completely different version of events and said it was in fact Mr Sanderson who had crashed in to her, and as a consequence, his injuries were self-inflicted.
The jury sided with the 50-year-old Hollywood actress and said they believed Mr Sanderson was 100% at fault. Ms Paltrow, who was awarded $1, plus legal fees, thanked the jurors before bending down and wishing her “opponent” well, as she left the court, to which he replied: “Thank you dear.”
The case hinged on skiing etiquette, with both parties claiming that they were the downhill skier and as such, would have the right of way and after several hours deliberation, the jury obviously believed that to be Ms Paltrow.
Mr Sanderson had initially tried to sue Ms Paltrow for $3.1m, but that case was dismissed almost immediately, so he came back with what he believed to be a more realistic claim, but failed to put up a convincing argument.
His immediate reaction to the verdict was that it was “very disappointing”.
Initial case dismissed
The first case which Mr Sanderson filed in 2019 came three years after their collision. His lawyers had presented what amounted to a “hit and run” case, suggesting that Ms Paltrow raced into him from behind at speed and had let out what was described as a “blood-curdling scream” before landing on top of him, then callously left him “lying in the snow” without summoning any help.
They said on top of the head and rib injuries, he also suffered: “loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement.” This lawsuit was dismissed without ever really getting off the ground.
“Life changing” collision
Coming back for a second try, Mr Sanderson avoided eye contact with the Oscar winner wherever possible, throughout the two weeks of proceedings. Seven years on from the accident on a beginner’s slope known as the Bandana Run, the former US army captain and optometrist was still insisting that the collision was entirely of Ms Paltrow’s doing, and had “completely changed his life.”
Completely opposite recollection
The actress refuted that claim and in her testimony she said her initial thought was “Is this a practical joke? or is someone doing something perverted?” She admitted that she may well have swore at Mr Sanderson for which she now apologises, but explained that it had rattled and physically hurt her, leaving her feeling violated, and blamed a rush of adrenaline for her bad language.
She added that she did not ask if he was OK because she was angry with him as it was he who had caused the collision.
Highly critical assessment from other party
“She knew that skiing that way, blindly skiing down a mountain while looking up and to the side, was reckless; she knew that continuing to ski that way… she would crash into somebody below her.” Those were the words of Mr Sanderson’s representative, Lawrence Buhler.
He painted his client as a charming, outgoing, gregarious person, living a full life, and travelling the world, before the collision, but was now unrecognisable to any of those traits.
Still travelling despite supposed “ruined health”
Steve Owens, Ms Paltrow’s lawyer, dismissed Mr Sanderson’s claims as “utter BS”. He said the assertion that his health was ruined by the crash was nonsense and pointed out a long list of trips he had taken since the accident: throughout Europe and down to South America and North Africa.
He also highlighted to the court that Mr Sanderson suffered from pre-existing medical conditions including vision and hearing loss, as a result of a previous stroke, and consequently there is a good chance that he may not have seen his client prior to the crash.
Additionally, he made the point that because of Ms Paltrow’s fame and wealth there is an argument that this was the actual driving force behind the claim.
King Kong comparison not a great idea
Mr Sanderson was forced to explain why he had compared Ms Paltrow to being like “King Kong coming out of the jungle”. He had claimed he heard the actress scream moments before allegedly crashing into him, but he insisted that he had in fact meant to say the movie star had screamed like a woman being chased by King Kong, not the ape itself.
His case also suffered a severe set back when it was revealed that he sent an email to his children on the day of the collision with a subject line: “I’m famous.” He accepted that he hadn’t picked his words well, but insisted that he was simply trying to add some levity to a serious situation, but it backfired.
Unanimous decision but loss blamed on celebrity status
The actress was present in court every day of the trial at the District Court in Park City, western Utah. The jury retired for around three hours and were unanimous in their verdict.
In a statement posted as an Instagram story to her 8.3 million followers, the star of films such as: Shakespeare in Love, A Perfect Murder, The Talented Mr Ripley, Seven, and Shallow Hal, said: “I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity.”
Her lawyer was full of praise for his client saying: “She has a history of advocating for what she believes in and this situation was no different and she will continue to stand up for what is right.”
Predictably Mr Sanderson maintained he was the one hit on the slope and suggested that Ms Paltrow’s stardom had influenced the jury’s decision. “You get some assumed credibility from being a famous person; I mean really, who wants to take on a celebrity?”