Gwyneth Paltrow in court as opening statements are made in ski crash trial

Gwyneth Paltrow at her civil trial over a ski accident in Utah

Gwyneth Paltrow was in court in Utah on Tuesday (March 21), as a civil trial over claims she seriously injured a man in a skiing accident in the state in 2016 kicked off.

The suit concerns a collision at a ski resort in Park City, with Terry Sanderson claiming that The Royal Tenenbaums actor collided with him and knocked “him down hard, knocking him out,” as reported by Law and Crime.

Sanderson claims the incident left him with “permanent traumatic brain injury, 4 broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement”. However, Paltrow has stated in a counter-suit that Sanderson was the one that crashed into her, causing a “full body hit,” which left her with minor injuries meaning she couldn’t ski for the rest of the day. She also states that Sanderson apologised immediately for the crash.

Terry Sanderson is suing Paltrow
Terry Sanderson is suing Paltrow. CREDIT: Getty

Opening statements in the jury trial began today, with proceedings scheduled to last for eight days. The 50-year-old Oscar winner and her children are expected to testify during the proceedings.

The incident occurred in February 2016 on the beginners slope at the Deer Valley resort where Ms Paltrow was skiing on a family vacation. The case appears to hinge on which skier – Paltrow or Sanderson – was uphill at the time of the accident. According to Deer Valley’s safety policies, as per the BBC, the skiers “ahead or downhill of you have the right-of-way. You must avoid them.”

During opening statements on Tuesday, Paltrow’s attorney told the jury that his client had just started her descent down the slope when a pair of skis without warning appeared between hers, and then a man collided with her back.

Paltrow in a Utah courtroom 2023
Paltrow is countersuing Sanderson. CREDIT: Getty

Paltrow’s lawyer argued that Sanderson, who suffers from vision and hearing loss as a result of a previous stroke, may not have seen his client before he collided with her. Paltrow’s lawyer added his client initially suspected she was being assaulted and was so shaken by the incident she chose not to ski for the rest of the day.

However, lawyers representing Sanderson argued that it was actually Paltrow who had been skiing erratically that day, because she was trying to watch her children go down the slopes.

Sanderson’s lawyer told the court that Paltrow showed “conscious disregard for other people on the mountain” when she crashed into his client, causing what he claimed to be severe injuries; including four broken ribs and permanent brain damage.

“Distracted skiers cause crashes,” Sanderson’s lawyer said, noting that Ms Paltrow is a seasoned skier and is well-aware of the rules. “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.”

In his original 2019 claim, Sanderson said it was the equivalent of a hit and run, alleging: “Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured.

“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.” Paltrow claims that the instructor did witness the collision.

Eric Christiansen, the instructor in question, was removed from the initial petition alongside the Deer Valley Resort Company after a judge limited the line of argument about the hit and run, with the ruling eventually concerning simple negligence around solely the crash.

“No one with knowledge of Ms. Paltrow’s post-collision actions claims to have observed Paltrow acting recklessly,” the judge wrote. “Even when interpreted in the light most favourable to [Sanderson], the undisputed facts fail to support his claim that Paltrow’s post-collision actions were likely to result in substantial harm, that they were highly unreasonable or an extreme departure from ordinary care, or that they came with an apparent and high degree of danger [sic].”

The suit has now gone from a claim of $3.1million (£2.54million) in damages from the actress to $300,000 (£246,150). Paltrow is seeking $1 (£0.82) in damages and attorney fees.

The case continues.

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