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Gwyneth Paltrow faces court over skiing collision at Deer Valley resort

Gwyneth Paltrow's lawyer calls the story of a retired optometrist who is suing her over a 2016 skiing collision "utter BS" as a trial over the matter gets underway in Utah.

Gwyneth Paltrow's lawyer has called the story of a retired optometrist who is suing her over a 2016 ski collision "utter BS" during the trial's opening day in Utah, where the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer appeared in court looking sombre.

Key points:
  • Lawyers from both sides provided contrasting versions of the crash
  • Gywneth Paltrow is being sued for $US300,000, with a claim negligence caused the collision
  • A central question in the case is who was farther down the slope when they crashed

Ms Paltrow and Terry Sanderson, the man suing her, sat across from each other in a Park City courtroom as their attorneys gave opening arguments that provided strikingly different versions of the crash.

Both described their clients as victims and blamed the other for the incident at Deer Valley, one of the country's most upscale ski resorts.

The two showed little emotion as the lawyers questioned their credibility and version of events.

Ms Paltrow shielded her face from photographers using a blue GP-initialled notebook as she entered and exited the courtroom on the first day of the trial, which is set to last eight days.

Gwyneth Paltrow leaves courtroom 2023 AP
Actor Gwyneth Paltrow shields her face with a notebook as she exits the Park City courtroom.

Mr Sanderson claims Ms Paltrow was cruising down the slopes so recklessly that they violently collided, leaving him on the ground as she and her entourage continued their descent down the skiers-only mountain known for its groomed runs, après-ski champagne yurts and posh clientele.

"All skiers know that when they're skiing down the mountain, it's their responsibility to yield the right of way to skiers below them," Mr Sanderson's attorney, Lawrence Buhler, told jurors, who — unlike those selected for most trials — walked into the courtroom smiling, likely because of their proximity to a major celebrity.

He highlighted Mr Sanderson's military service record and tried to appeal to the jury's sympathies, describing the broken ribs and brain trauma he sustained during the crash.

Paltrow accused of 'so what?' attitude

Attempting to draw a contrast, Mr Buhler described Ms Paltrow as a wealthy, experienced skier who adopted a "so what?" attitude after the crash.

"She hires multiple ski instructors for her children, which allows them to skip the lines," he said.

"Private instructors cost thousands of dollars per day."

Ms Paltrow and Mr Sanderson both agree they collided while on a beginner's run seven years ago, yet both accuse the other of being at fault and skiing up behind them.

Mr Sanderson is suing Ms Paltrow for $US300,000 ($450,000), claiming the accident in Park City was a result of negligence, and left him with physical injuries and emotional distress.

After the collision, Mr Sanderson's attorneys said their client went to urgent care and to the emergency room.

A bearded man with greying hair wearing a suit is photographed in a courtroom
Retired optometrist Terry Sanderson arrives at court in Park City, Utah.(AP: Rick Bowmer/Pool)
The central question

Park City is a resort town in the Rocky Mountains that hosts the Sundance Film Festival, which draws a throng of celebrities each year.

On ski slopes, Utah law gives the skier who is downhill the right of way, so a central question in the case is who was farther down the slope when the collision transpired.

Both Ms Paltrow and Mr Sanderson say they were farther downhill when the other rammed into them, causing their skis to intertwine and the two to tumble.

In the lawyers' opening arguments, both sides presented their clients as conservative skiers who were stunned when a skier above them crashed into them.

Ms Paltrow's attorneys told jurors on Tuesday that Mr Sanderson was the one who crashed into her, dealing her a "full body blow".

Attorney Steve Owens noted that members of Ms Paltrow's group checked on Mr Sanderson, who assured them he was fine — an interaction Mr Sanderson does not deny but said in court filings he cannot remember.

Gwyneth Paltrow wears a neutral expression as she looks towards an unidentifiable figure blurred in the foreground
Gwyneth Paltrow has accused Terry Sanderson of overstating his injuries and attempting to exploit her celebrity and wealth.(AP: Rick Bowmer/Pool)

While showing images of Ms Paltrow on a chairlift with her son, Ms Paltrow's attorney cautioned jurors not to let sympathy for Mr Sanderson's medical ailments skew their judgements.

He questioned the 76-year-old's credibility, noting his age and documented, pre-collision brain injuries.

He said that the Utah man had confirmed he was fine after the crash.

Mr Owens also said that Mr Sanderson posted a "very happy, smiling picture" of himself online, being tobogganed down after the crash.

"His memories of the case get better over the years," Mr Owens said.

"That's all I'm going to say. That's not how memory works."

Initial lawsuit dropped

After his initial lawsuit seeking $US3.1 million was dropped, Mr Sanderson amended the complaint. He is now seeking $US300,000.

Ms Paltrow, an Oscar-winning actor known for her roles in Shakespeare in Love and Marvel's Iron Man movies, filed a counterclaim, seeking legal fees and $US1 in damages.

Ms Paltrow has alleged that Mr Sanderson was actually the culprit in the collision, is overstating his injuries, and is trying to exploit her celebrity and wealth.

In addition to her acting career, she is also the founder and CEO of high-end wellness company goop.

"He demanded Ms Paltrow pay him millions," her attorneys wrote in a 2019 court filing. 

"If she did not pay, she would face negative publicity resulting from his allegations."


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