The man suing Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 skiing collision at one of the most upscale resorts in North America took the stand Monday, saying he was rammed into from behind and sent “absolutely flying.”
The trial in Utah hinges on who crashed into who: Paltrow testified days earlier that Terry Sanderson, a retired 76-year-old optometrist, veered into her back. He says the opposite, and that the collision broke four ribs and caused post-concussion symptoms that changed his personality and strained his family relationships.
But beyond questions of skiing etiquette, Paltrow’s attorneys have argued the lawsuit is an attempt by an “obsessed” man to exploit the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer’s wealth and celebrity.
Sanderson is suing Paltrow for more than $300,000 and Paltrow has countersued for $1 and attorney fees. 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.
On Monday, Sanderson recalled a screaming woman skiing into him and hitting him between the shoulder blades with her fists and poles as he tried to shield his head.
“All I saw was a whole lot of snow. And I didn’t see the sky, but I was flying,” Sanderson said, calling it “a serious smack.”
Sanderson said he remembered a man in a Deer Valley Resort ski suit come up afterward and instead of offering help, angrily blaming him for the collision.
The hourlong testimony at times brought Sanderson to tears, particularly when he appeared not to be able to focus or remember things — in a way that dovetailed his legal team’s claim that the crash permanently damaged his brain. They have also argued it hurt relationships with his loved ones, including his daughters.
“Something’s wrong in my essence and what I bring to the table with them” since the crash, Sanderson said.
The jury in Park City, Utah, has been presented back-to-back victim narratives. Paltrow testified Friday that she was downhill of Sanderson, who she said hit her square in the back, then grunted and groaned as the collision caused the two to fall together on the mountain.
After four-and-a-half days of calling witnesses, Sanderson’s attorneys will now hand over the courtroom for Paltrow’s defense team to make their case. Paltrow’s attorneys are expected to call her two teenage children — Moses and Apple — and a ski instructor who was present the day of the collision.
They have said they also plan to depose a slate of dueling medical experts, who are expected to undercut testimony from neurologists, radiologists and psychologists hired by Sanderson’s team.
Craig Ramon, the man claiming to be the sole eyewitness to the collision, testified last week that he saw Paltrow hit Sanderson.
Also last week, an email exchange between Sanderson and his daughters with the subject line, “I’m famous … At what cost?” intrigued jurors and viewers following the trial online.
Attorneys have raised questions about a message from one of Sanderson’s daughters suggesting the entire collision could have been recorded on a GoPro helmet cam.
That daughter, Shae Herath, testified Friday about an email in which she wrote “I also can’t believe this is all on GoPro” and sent along a link to a website. She and her father both testified the message didn’t contain any footage.
Herath said she sent it, she said, after speaking to her father and speculating that, at on a crowded hill at a resort like Deer Valley, someone wearing a helmet cam must have heard a scream and turned their head to capture the pair veering down the hill.
On Monday, Judge Kent Holmberg said online sleuths had found the link and that its contents would be included as evidence. The link didn’t contain GoPro footage. Instead, it was to a chat between members of Sanderson’s ski group, in which 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 makes 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 — the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer — that day.
Paltrow’s attorneys used Sanderson’s participation in the post-crash exchange to ask questions about the extent of his injuries and disorientation.
—Sam Metz, The Associated Press