Gwyneth Paltrow ski crash trial: biggest bombshells
The first week of the trial involving Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 ski accident in Utah has come to a close.
Retired optometrist Terry Sanderson is seeking $300,000 in damages from the Goop founder after a collision at the Deer Valley ski resort.
According to Sanderson's lawsuit, Paltrow collided with Sanderson and skied off, leaving him with a "permanent traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life," and emotional distress and disfigurement.
"Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured," the complaint filed in 2019 says. "A Deer Valley ski instructor, who had been training Ms. Paltrow, but who did not see the crash, skied over, saw the injured Sanderson and skied off, falsely accusing Sanderson of having caused the crash."
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Paltrow has maintained Sanderson actually skied into her and claims she stuck around until given the OK to leave by the Deer Valley Resort ski instructor. The 50-year-old actress also said Sanderson previously admitted he didn't have a clear memory of the accident.
The "Shakespeare in Love" star countersued for attorney’s fees and $1.
The jury trial began last week in Park City, Utah.
Here are the biggest bombshells from the first week of the trial.
Paltrow took the stand Friday and testified she initially thought the collision she experienced was a sexual assault.
"So that was a quick thought that went through my head when I was trying to reconcile what was happening," Paltrow explained. "Two skis came between my skis forcing my legs apart and then a body pressed against me.
"My brain was trying to make sense of what is happening," she added. "I thought, ‘Is this a practical joke? Is someone doing something perverted?’ My mind was going very, very quickly, and my mind was trying to ascertain what happened."
Paltrow noted it felt like they were "spooning" when the two fell to the ground. She also emphasized that she's not claiming she was sexually assaulted, that's just "what went through [her] mind when it happened."
Plaintiff's personality changes
Terry Sanderson (C) the Utah man suing Gwyneth Paltrow, appears in court during her testimony, March 24, 2023, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rick Bowmer / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)
One of the chief complaints from Sanderson’s legal team is a dramatic shift in the plaintiff's personality, allegedly resulting from the traumatic brain injury he claims to have suffered in the crash.
On day two of the trial, Dr. Wendell Gibby, an expert witness, was called to the stand to speak on Sanderson’s personality.
"Terry had been a very high-functioning, high-energy person," Gibby said. Every day he was doing lots of things. Meeting groups, wine tasting, skiing, volunteering.
"But, after his accident, he deteriorated abruptly, and many of the activities that he used to do, he stopped doing, like, for the most part.… He normally could, you know, handle multiple projects at once, but he would have to sit there and focus very hard on one task. He would go to a Home Depot, for example, and forget why he was there.
"He also experienced a worsening of his depression. And, so, those are very typical hallmarks of someone who has had a traumatic injury."
Attorney Lawrence D. Buhler claimed during witness testimony that Sanderson's relationships with his girlfriend at the time and his daughters changed after the accident. Sanderson's attorney noted that, following the ski collision, the retired optometrist got quickly irritated with his grandchild.
Sanderson’s daughter, Polly Grasham, testified that she realized something was "terribly wrong" with her father more than one year after the collision.
"His processing speeds," she said, were slower and "the effort that it took, definitely when we were in person … I felt like, wow.
"I almost expected drool to be coming out of his mouth because he was not engaged with anyone and had taken himself to a remote corner."
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Tears on the stand
Shae Herath, the daughter of a man suing Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 ski collision, testifies about her father's health, on March 24, 2023, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rick Bowmer-Pool/Getty Images)
On Friday, before Paltrow testified, Shae Sanderson Hareth, another daughter of Sanderson, took the stand to address the incident with her daughter and Sanderson that served as an indicator of the plaintiff’s change in personality.
Hareth explained that her father belittled her daughter while attempting to close the door of her Honda Odyssey as they were taking children to a dance shop. The door wouldn't close, and Hareth's daughter tried to explain to Sanderson that her mom could fix the issue. He screamed at the child.
The oldest daughter of Sanderson claimed the experience "damaged" her father's relationship with his granddaughter.
"I got in the front door and I looked back at my little, my little daughter, and she's just red cheeked and her tears are streaming down her eyes. And she is just so belittled and made to feel like she's stupid," Hareth recalled on the stand.
"It was so awful. Awful experience," she added. "And I have never known my dad to raise his voice or scream or belittle or do those of things. It was just very uncharacteristic of him."
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The first witness, Craig Ramon, a friend of Sanderson’s, took the stand Tuesday but appeared to struggle with his recollection of the incident.
Ramon was skiing nearby and allegedly heard a scream just before the collision happened.
"We were skiing down the run, and then I heard this yell, this scream," he said. "I looked over … and then I see this skier just slam into the back of Terry, very hard. She hits him right directly in the back. His skis, the tips go out like this, and he falls face down, kind of spread eagle."
Ramon seemingly struggled with his memory of the incident, and Paltrow's attorney, Stephen Owens, referred the witness to the nearly 300-page deposition the witness had previously given.
"Terry was wearing a helmet," Owens said. "The person he collided with was not wearing a helmet." Ramon answered, "I don’t know."
"Did you tell me she was not wearing a helmet?" he asked, to which Ramon said, "I don’t remember what she was wearing."
Owens continued, "Did you previously tell me under oath that she was not wearing a helmet?"
Ramon answered, "I can't answer that. I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was wearing."
Paltrow's lawyer reminded Ramon he "previously testified this under oath" before proceeding with further questions.
Paltrow testified that Ramon is color blind and was 40 feet away and claims "what he said is not what happened."
Due to Paltrow’s fame, cameras have been swarming the Park City, Utah, courthouse inside and out, to the point her attorney asked for some reprieve.
On day two of the trial, a camera placed directly in front of Paltrow and her lawyer was found to be in violation of court decorum. It was removed, and Owens emphasized there are criminal sanctions that go along with court rules.
"I want it to stop," Owens said shortly after the start of court. "I don’t want to have to be the one raising it. I want [the photographer] to comply."
"Court has permitted coverage of the proceeding. If you’re speaking into a microphone, expect an image to be captured," the judge responded. "I do see this as a violation, and I’ve asked that the reporter be told that this is now interrupting our proceeding. If it happens again, the reporter will be asked to leave."
Paltrow's legal team also noted reporters had been in front of Paltrow's car Tuesday and had a camera "inches away" from her face.
The trial is being livestreamed by multiple outlets, and an Associated Press photographer has been stationed in the courtroom.
Gwyneth’s family testimony
During the first day of the trial, Paltrow’s lawyer revealed her husband Brad Falchuk and two children, Apple, 18, and Moses, 16, will testify on her behalf. Falchuk and the children were with her at the time of the accident but did not actually witness it.
Her lawyer claims Moses, then 9, came over with his instructor to find his mother on the ground yelling, adding, "He was worried."
Owens also claimed Falchuk had heard Paltrow scream from farther down the mountain and looked up to see her in the snow.
According to Owens’ opening argument, the ski trip marked the couple’s first getaway to test out blending their families. Falchuk has two children from a previous relationship. It is unclear if Falchuk’s children will testify.
"And this was really their first trip to sort of a have a mixed, see-if-this-might-work," Owens said. "So it was a special time, and it was a lovely day."
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Plaintiff: 'I’m famous'
One issue under scrutiny in the trial is Paltrow’s celebrity status, which can lead people to pursue litigation, said health care attorney Harry Nelson, founder and managing partner of Nelson Hardiman.
"The unfortunate reality is that there are many plaintiff attorneys and plaintiffs out there who view personal injury litigation opportunistically and will see a defendant’s deep pockets or fame as a reason to sue or to seek much higher amounts than they would otherwise. It’s part of the price of celebrity and wealth," Nelson, who is not involved with the case, told Fox News Digital.
The issue came up when Polly Grasham was cross-examined by Paltrow’s attorney.
Owens asked Grasham, Sanderson’s daughter, about an email circulated by Sanderson to his daughters on the day of the collision.
"Here's what happened from my friend and eyewitness … headline I'm famous" with a link to a meetup group Sanderson had used for the ski outing, Owens said, reading from the email.
"I think I wasn't able to access that information," Grasham said in response. "I don't recall what it was. In my memory, it was a dead end. I do not recall what this link was."
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Courtroom antics and fashion statements
On Thursday, Paltrow’s attorney requested if "treats" could be brought in for the court bailiffs as thanks for their work.
"The private security for my client wanted to bring in treats for the bailiffs for how helpful they've been, so I wanted to do that transparently and see if there are any objections," Owens told the court.
Sanderson’s legal team objected, and the judge denied the request, leading to a back-and-forth between the lawyers.
"He should have asked us first, frankly," Buhler said of the motion.
"It hasn't been done," Owens responded.
"I know, but he should have asked us first. He talked about it, but he just sprung it on us now," Buhler added. "So we object."
Paltrow’s lawyer also found himself in a contentious exchange Thursday with Polly Grasham, Sanderson’s daughter, when she took the stand on behalf of her father.
After a heated cross-examination that morning, Owens told Grasham, "I need to apologize. I was being an a-- earlier. You love your dad."
By the end of the cross-examination, Owens and Grasham were verbally sparring once again. He asked about Grasham's sister Jenny describing Sanderson as "anal-retentive.
"I'm thinking that word came up with my older sister because I don't even know what anal-retentive means … if you're talking type A? I would not call him anal-retentive, no," Grasham said.
Owens attempted to clarify his words, saying, "It has nothing to do with our butts."
Grasham ended her testimony with, "Yeah, let's move on."
Paltrow, on the other hand, has gone viral for her courtroom looks, both fashion and facial.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow looks on before leaving the courtroom, where she is accused in a lawsuit of crashing into a skier during a 2016 family ski vacation, leaving him with brain damage and four broken ribs, March 21, 2023, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rick Bowmer-Pool/Getty Images)
In the first few days, Paltrow’s multiple facial expressions drew attention online, with one social media user describing the actress as "Gwyneth pout-trow."
The Oscar winner also wore sweaters and slacks, along with larger glasses, before donning a multi-piece suit for the third day of testimony Thursday. When she took the stand Friday, she was dressed in a simple black button-down.
Of the sweater outfit, one commenter joked, "I do unfortunately love gwyneth's court outfit like if you get sued for a skiing crime that is exactly the kind of outfit you should wear."
Others compared her oversize glasses to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's. The Netflix show "Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," debuted last year.
The trial will resume Monday at 9 a.m. MT.
Fox News Digital’s Lauryn Overhultz, Tracy Wright, and Caroline Thayer contributed to this report.