Gwyneth Paltrow, the Oscar-winning actress and founder of luxury lifestyle brand Goop, is currently involved in a civil trial after being sued by a retired optometrist who accused her of causing permanent brain damage after crashing into him while skiing in Utah.
In 2019, Terry Sanderson, 76, filed a lawsuit against Paltrow initially seeking $3 million in damages. The amount has since been dropped to $300,000. Sanderson alleges that on February 26, 2016, he was skiing on a beginner’s slope at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, a resort town known for hosting the Sundance Film Festival.
Sanderson claims that the actress was skiing behind him on the slope and had turned to watch her children before, as his attorney said in court Tuesday, “she turns her head back down, she screams, then skis into the back of Terry Sanderson.” Sanderson’s attorney, Lawrence Buhler, said that after the collision, his client was left “facedown in the snow, unconscious,” according to The Washington Post. After the crash, Paltrow allegedly fled, leaving Sanderson “stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured,” according to his lawsuit. Paltrow didn’t call for help, he added.
Sanderson later went to an emergency room and was diagnosed with a concussion and four broken ribs. Sanderson’s ski companion, Craig Ramon, testified at the civil trial that he saw Paltrow crash into Sanderson and knock him over.
“I hear this scream and then I see this skier just slam into the back of Terry,” Ramon testified.
Buhler, Sanderson’s attorney, said the accident has left his client with lasting damage, blaming Paltrow’s “neglect, her choices and her disregard for other people on the mountain all combined together” for Sanderson’s issues.
“Before this crash, Terry was an outgoing, charming, gregarious person,” Buhler said at the trial. “But after the crash, he’s no longer charming.”
Sanderson’s lawsuit claims he suffered a “permanent traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement.”
Paltrow’s attorneys have argued that, while a collision did occur between the actress and Sanderson seven years ago, it was the retired optometrist who crashed into her. One of her attorneys, Stephen Owens, said at the trial that because Paltrow was struck so suddenly, she at first thought she was being assaulted.
“She’s skiing, enjoying herself,” Owens said. “Suddenly she sees two skis appear between her skis. And a man comes up right behind her.”
Owens said that right after the crash, Sanderson asked, “Who ran into who?” and then apologized to Paltrow after she said that he ran into her. Paltrow’s defense team said members of her group checked on Sanderson after the accident and he said he was okay, and that he said the same thing to a ski patrol member who came to check on them. The actress’ attorneys said Paltrow only skied away after Sanderson said he was okay and after ski patrol left, and that the retired optometrist only sought help after he waved away ski patrol.
Owens said Ramon’s account of the incident was “a whole different, crazy story.” Owens argued that Sanderson didn’t even know that Paltrow was involved at the time, since she was wearing a helmet and goggles. But later, when he discovered who she was, he sent an email to his daughters saying “I’m famous.”
Owens also suggested that the crash isn’t the cause of Sanderson’s health issues, saying, “He’s aging, he has prior problems, and he’s now obsessed, essentially, with this lawsuit.”
“I don’t want to seem like I’m beating up on a kindly old man,” Owens added, “but keep in mind we have to do this because they’ve said Gwyneth owes me $3 million.”
Paltrow has filed a counterclaim against Sanderson, seeking a symbolic $1 in damages, as well as attorney fees. Paltrow has called Sanderson’s lawsuit a “meritless claim” and “an attempt to exploit her celebrity and wealth.”
Paltrow says in her countersuit that Deer Valley ski instructor Eric Christiansen witnessed the incident and bolstered her version of the story. In his lawsuit, Sanderson claims that Christiansen didn’t see what happened and filed a false police report supporting Paltrow’s claims.
The civil trial began Tuesday and is scheduled to last eight days, with Paltrow’s husband, Brad Falchuk, as well as her children, daughter Apple and son Moses, expected to testify.