Gwyneth Paltrow trial: Actress says 'strange' ski collision felt like 'someone doing something perverted'
Gwyneth Paltrow has described how a "large" male skier collided with her and made "strange grunting noises" as she took the stand in a trial over the 2016 incident.
The Hollywood actor and wellness guru, 50, is being sued by Terry Sanderson, 76, who claims she ploughed into him at a luxury ski resort.
Mr Sanderson, a retired eye doctor, is seeking $300,000 (£250,000) in damages after alleging Paltrow crashed into him and caused severe and long-lasting brain injuries.
She has previously called the lawsuit an attempt to exploit her fame and celebrity and claimed Mr Sanderson crashed into her.
Paltrow took to the stand to testify on the third day of the trial to describe how a "large" male skier collided with her, making "strange noises" and pressing into her back.
"I was confused at first and I didn't know what was happening. It's a very strange thing to happen on a ski slope," she told the court, describing how she became "very upset".
The actor was questioned on her earlier deposition, when she said she initially thought she was being sexually assaulted. She has made clear she is not alleging the crash was a sexual assault.
"It was a quick thought that went through my head," she said. “Two skis came between my skis, forcing my legs apart. And there was a body pressing against me and a very strange grunting noise.
"So my brain was trying to make sense of what was happening,” she said of the collision. She added: "I thought, is this a practical joke? Is someone doing something perverted?
"My mind was going very quickly and trying to ascertain what was happening."
Paltrow clarified that she was not stating that it was a sexual assault saying: "I'm just saying what went through my mind for a split second when it was happening."
She also testified that she yelled at Mr Sanderson, "You're skied directly into my f---ing back."
She added: "And he said, 'oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry'."
Paltrow described herself as an "intermediate" skier and familiar with the rules of skiing.
She revealed her children, Apple, then aged 11, and Moses, then aged nine, were having very "expensive" lessons at the Deer Valley Resort during the 2016 ski holiday.
She said Eric Christiansen, her ski instructor, had left her contact information with Mr Sanderson following the collision.
"So because I was hit by Mr Sanderson and he was at fault I assume that Eric...who was there at the time, he said 'I'm going to leave all of your information', because my kids were waiting for me," she said.
"I would not have left the scene without leaving my information and my information was left (by Eric)...subsequently I know that he did. I was not there when it was given."
Paltrow wore a navy skirt and button down blouse and occasionally drank from a glass bottle.
Asked if she engaged in risky behaviour, she said: "I was not engaging in any risky behaviour. I would not engage in risky behaviour with or without my children being there," she said.
"I have always been open and honest with my kids, and they know me very well."
Paltrow's heavily anticipated testimony comes halfway into the trial. Throughout the week in Utah, her attorneys have asked for special restrictions, including limiting photography both in the courtroom and in the public parking lot outside – where a rope cordons off Paltrow’s entrance and exit paths.
Her testimony could last longer than an hour and is expected to mirror what she said in a previous deposition about how she “froze” when the crash happened.
“We came crashing down together. This man was behind me on the mountain," she said in November 2020.
“My knee – and our skis — were still sort of tangled up. Our bodies were almost spooning and I moved away quickly. And my knee splayed open, and I was in shock.”
Paltrow's children with British rock star Chris Martin, Apple and Moses Martin, are also expected to speak in their mother’s defence.
'I'm famous' video goes missing
It comes after footage sent by Ms Paltrow’s accuser to his family shortly after their ski collision in which he boasted it would make him “famous” has gone missing, the court was told.
It emerged on day four of the eight-day trial that hours after he was released from hospital, Mr Sanderson messaged friends and family with the subject line "I’m famous…at what cost" with a link to what is believed to be GoPro video footage.
However, by the time the communications were made available to Paltrow’s legal team the link was dead and it is not known what it contained.
When challenged by Paltrow's lawyer over what they claim to be "the most important piece of evidence", Mr Sanderson's daughter Polly Sanderson-Grasham - a recipient of the email - claimed to not remember what that link was.
"I had a ski accident three weeks prior to my dad,” she told jurors, explaining her lack of memory. "I was not sleeping well. I also had a four and an eight-year-old to take care of, so my memory of that period is very foggy."
The footage has not been found or included as evidence in the trial, however the actor's attorneys suggested it could have been crucial to establishing blame in the case.
Paltrow has previously called the lawsuit an attempt to exploit her fame and celebrity.
The proceedings thus far have touched on themes ranging from skier’s etiquette to the power - and burden - of celebrity. The amount of money at stake is relatively little, with Mr Sanderson’s attorney telling the jury the trial is about “value, not cost.”
Day four of the civil lawsuit rattled through medical witnesses called by the plaintiff.
Dr Richard Boehne, a neurologist, testified on Friday that he believed that Paltrow hitting Mr Sanderson from behind on the slope was the only possible account "given the set of facts that were given to me and the nature of the injuries sustained" by the optometrist.
Dr Boehne calculated the causality according to "classic physics" he said, but conceded that he "guesstimated" Paltrow's weight at 130 pounds (9.3 stone).
The judge in the case earlier denied an unusual request from the Hollywood star to bring in “treats” for staff at the Utah courtroom.
During Thursday’s proceedings, Paltrow’s lawyer Stephen Owens asked the judge whether her team could bring in the treats for the bailiffs in gratitude for their service.
It was not known what gifts she was intending to distribute. The actress-come-celebrity influencer has a line of products including eye creams, jade eggs and a “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle.
“Private security for my client wanted to bring in treats for the bailiffs for how helpful they’ve been,” Mr Owens said. “So, I wanted to do that transparently and see if there are any objections.”
Mr Sanderson’s attorneys then objected to the request, arguing that the defence did not fill them in before raising the request to the judge.
“OK, there’s an objection so thank you, but no thank you,” a baffled Judge Kent Holmberg ordered. “If the parties decide to do that later, that’s fine, too.”