The retired optometrist suing actor Gwyneth Paltrow for allegedly crashing into him on a ski hill in 2016 took the stand Monday as the buzzed-about trial heads into its second week.
Paltrow, 50, has been accused of causing serious injury to Terry Sanderson after she allegedly collided with him while skiing at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.
Sanderson, 76, alleged Paltrow skied into him, “knocking him down hard, knocking him out.” He claimed the collision caused “permanent traumatic brain injury, 4 broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life.”
He maintains that Paltrow left him collapsed on the slope and skied away. He is suing Paltrow for more than US$300,000.
Paltrow denies any responsibility for the crash and is countersuing for $1 and lawyers’ fees. She claims Sanderson is the one who hit her and is now suing to “exploit her celebrity and wealth.”
Before calling Sanderson on Monday, his lawyer first recalled Craig Ramon, the sole eyewitness to the ski crash, to testify again. Ramon was shown several messages he sent shortly after the ski collision, which claimed he saw Sanderson injured by Paltrow.
Sanderson next took the stand. He said prior to the accident he was an “advanced-intermediate” skier who usually hit the slopes two or three times a week.
He said recounting the accident is “hard” for him. Sanderson testified he heard a “bloodcurdling scream” before he was hit in the back by another person on skis, presumably Paltrow. He said the person’s ski poles hit beneath his shoulder blades and sent him “flying.”
Sanderson said he fell to the ground and briefly “blacked out.” When he came to, Sanderson testified he could not move but knew there was a man shouting at him. The unknown man, according to Sanderson, was trying to “bully” him into believing he’d hurt someone in the accident.
Sanderson testified that he only learned it was Paltrow who had allegedly hit him after he was helped down the slope and received medical attention.
“I’m living another life now,” Sanderson said, referring to the lasting injuries he claimed to have sustained from the accident. He testified that he cannot ski anymore.
Sanderson said he gets easily lost and has had “difficult” relationships with his family since the ski collision. He became emotional on the stand, recounting how his daughters have reacted to alleged changes in his personality caused by brain trauma.
He said the accident has made him a “self-imposed recluse” and caused him to lose his “spark” for life.
Upon cross-examination, Paltrow’s lawyer, Stephen Owens, insisted there were several inconsistencies between Sanderson’s testimony and an earlier deposition. One such inconsistency Owens pointed out was the amount of time Sanderson claimed to be unconscious after the collision, with varying time frames in the deposition, his testimony and various medical records.
After Sanderson’s testimony, Paltrow’s lawyers are expected to call on her two children, 16-year-old Moses and 18-year-old Apple — who were present on the day of the incident — along with a ski instructor.
On Friday afternoon, Paltrow told a lawyer from Sanderson’s team that she “was not engaging in any risky behaviour” on the day of the crash, saying she was skiing with her two kids as well as with Brad Falchuk — her boyfriend at the time, now her husband — and his two kids.
The group was taking ski lessons on a green run, considered to be the easiest of runs on a ski hill, at the time, when she said she felt a pair of skis come between her skis, spreading her legs apart, and felt a “large body” hit her from behind.
“There was a body pressing against me and there was a very strange grunting noise,” she testified of the moment of the collision. “My brain was trying to make sense of what was happening. I thought, ‘Am I… is this a practical joke? Is someone, like, doing something perverted?’ This is really, really strange,” she said in her testimony, adding that she “froze” while trying to make sense of what was happening.
The pair skied down the hill for a short period, before “someone’s ski caught an edge,” Paltrow testifed, and they collapsed, with Paltrow landing on top of Sanderson, their skis entwined.
“He struck me in the back, yes, that’s exactly what happened,” Paltrow said, as the lawyer read back a portion of her description of the events from a deposition.
Paltrow said she waited for Sanderson to stand up – “long enough for him to say that he was OK” – before she skied away, adding that she did not ask about his condition any further and did not know the extent of his injuries at the time.
“I think you have to keep in mind when you’re the victim of a crash, right, your psychology is not necessarily thinking about the person who perpetrated it,” Paltrow testified.
During her testimony, Paltrow said she was left with an “overstretched” right knee and back pain after Sanderson collided with her from behind. In a since-viral clip, Paltrow testified she “lost half a day of skiing” as a result of her alleged injuries. Her lawyers entered the US$8,980 daily ski trip receipt into evidence on Friday, noting the amount paid for she and her two children to use the luxury slopes.
This is art. pic.twitter.com/aSvbrW2wZ6
— Lauren Peikoff (@laurenpeikoff) March 25, 2023
Paltrow said she feels empathy for Sanderson, but said she did not give him brain injuries that showed up on an MRI he received in 2016.
“I feel very sorry for him. It seems like he’s had a very difficult life, but I did not cause the accident so I cannot be at fault for anything that subsequently happened to him,” she testified.
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