Gwyneth Paltrow left skier with permanent brain damage after collision, US court hears
Gwyneth Paltrow crashed into a skier in a “hit and run” collision that left him with permanent brain damage after she became distracted by her children on the slopes, a US court heard on Tuesday.
The 50-year-old actress appeared for the first day of her civil trial in the Utah ski town of Park City where she is accused in a lawsuit of slamming into a pensioner during a 2016 family ski vacation before bolting away without saying a word.
Terry Sanderson, 76, is suing the celebrity for the crash at Deer Valley Resort, a skiers-only mountain known for its groomed runs, après-ski champagne yurts and posh clientele. He claims the crash left him with brain damage and four broken ribs.
Lawrence Buhler, Mr Sanderson’s lawyer, told jurors in his opening statement that Ms Paltrow had been skiing with her two children she has with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, Apple, now 18, and Moses, 14, when they called over to her, “Mummy, mummy, watch us ski!”
“The children and their two instructors ski to the left. Ms Paltrow skis down to the right, she turns her head up to look at her children,” Mr Buhler said. “As she turns her head back down she screams and skis into the back of Terry Sanderson… they hit the ground hard and Ms Paltrow bounces off Terry.”
The court heard that Paltrow considered herself an “intermediate level skier” and that she had hired “multiple instructors” at the cost of thousands of dollars on the day of the incident.
“Distracted skiers cause crashes,” Mr Buhler said. “She (Gwyneth) knew looking somewhere else - up the mountain and to the side - was dangerous, it was reckless.”
He said her “choices and her conscious disregard combined together” to cause the accident.
“It is uphill skiers’ responsibility to yield the way to skiers below. She knew that it was not a matter of if but when she would crash into someone.”
He added that following the collision, the wellness guru did not say anything and instead “bolted” down the mountain.
One of the actress’ instructors had said to a friend of Mr Sanderson, “your buddy just took out Gwyneth Paltrow” before also “bolting” down the mountain, Mr Buhler said.
In a case that has lasted years, Mr Sanderson is suing Paltrow for $300,000 (£250,000) - claiming that the accident in Park City was a result of negligence, and left him with physical injuries and emotional distress.
A sombre-looking Ms Paltrow, wearing beige knit, tweed harem pants and aviator-style reading glasses, shielded her face from reporters and photographers with a blue portfolio as she entered and exited the courtroom.
Park City is a mountain resort town that hosts the Sundance Film Festival, which draws a throng of celebrities each year.
At ski resorts, the skier who is downhill has the right of way, so a central question in the case is who was farther down the beginner’s run when the collision transpired. Both Ms Paltrow and Mr Sanderson claim in court filings that they were farther downhill when the other rammed into them.
Mr Buhler added: “Before this crash, Terry was a charming, gregarious outgoing person.”
“He was living a full life travelling the world, doing everything possible to enjoy life and guard his health, but after the crash, he is no longer charming.”
Mr Sanderson also accused Deer Valley and its employees of engaging in a “cover-up” by not providing complete information on incident reports and not following resort safety policies.
His initial lawsuit seeking $3.1 million (£2.5 million) was dropped. The Oscar-winning actor known for her roles in Shakespeare in Love and Marvel’s Iron Man movies - filed a counterclaim, seeking attorney fees and $1 (80p) in damages.
Stephen Owens, Ms Paltrow’s lawyer, claimed in his own opening statement that Ms Paltrow initially thought she had been assaulted. “She asked him (Terry) ‘what are you doing?’ as they both lay on the ground and he said, or words to that effect - ‘I don’t know, I’m not sure…I’m sorry’,” Mr Owens told the court. “He did not say ‘I was just hit’.”
He called Mr Sanderson’s claims “utter BS” and claimed he suffered from brain issues before the collision in 2016, referring to an MRI predating the accident.
He said both Apple and Moses would give evidence during the eight-day trial in their mother’s defence.
The trial is set to continue for eight days.