A Utah man is suing actor Gwyneth Paltrow for a “hit-and-run ski crash” on the slopes at Deer Valley — alleging she hit him and then skied away as he lay in the snow with serious injuries. And he’s asking for damages in excess of $3.1 million.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in 3rd District Court in Summit County, retired optometrist Terry Sanderson alleges that on Feb. 26, 2016, Paltrow — an Oscar-winning actor whose roles range from “Shakespeare in Love” to “Glee” to the “Iron Man” movies — was skiing “out of control.” He claims she hit him from behind, “knocking him down, landing on top of him, and causing him to suffer a concussion, brain injury and four broken ribs.”
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Sanderson said he was skiing with five friends when he “heard this just hysterical screaming like … King Kong in the jungle or something” and that Paltrow struck him in the back seconds later, breaking his ribs, giving him a concussion and causing a “closed brain injury,” which one of Sanderson’s attorneys compared to shaken baby syndrome.
After the collision, “Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow,” according to the lawsuit.
Sanderson, who was 69 at the time of the collision, is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. He said he was skiing slowly when Paltrow hit him at full speed.
“I think velocity explains” his injuries, he said. “A little bitty bullet can make a big hole.”
At the news conference, Sanderson’s attorneys — Lawrence D. Buhler and Robert B. Sykes — pointed to the National Ski Area Association’s Skier Responsibility Code, which states that skiers must “always stay in control” and that “people ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.”
They also noted that a Summit County ordinance prohibits “reckless skiing” and mandates that “any skier involved in a collision that results in an injury” must stop, render assistance, notify ski area employees and give their name and address “before leaving the ski area.”
“And it even applies to celebrities, believe or not,” Sykes said. “It applies to Gwyneth Paltrow. … What Miss Paltrow did that day was knock Terry Sanderson down, pick herself up, dust herself off and ski off."
Paltrow’s attorney in Utah, Stephen W. Owens, referred questions to the actor’s publicist, who emailed this statement: “This lawsuit is completely without merit and we expect to be vindicated.” According to Sykes, Paltrow’s lawyers “don’t deny the collision. Their position is that Gwyneth Paltrow was downhill, and Terry Sanderson hit Gwyneth Paltrow.”
The lawsuit alleges that Deer Valley ski instructor Eric Christiansen, who accompanied Paltrow “but who did not see the crash,” approached Sanderson and “falsely” accused him of “having caused the crash.” According to Sanderson, neither Paltrow nor Deer Valley personnel on the scene at the time of the collision offered help or alerted emergency responders.
At the news conference, attorneys played a recorded interview with Craig Ramen, an acquaintance of Sanderson’s with whom Sanderson had skied “three or four” times. Ramen said he saw Paltrow slam into Sanderson from behind — and that the ski instructor with the actor “started yelling at Terry, ‘What did you do? What did you do?’ And Terry wasn’t moving.”
Christianson, the ski instructor, “later filed a false report to protect his client, Ms. Paltrow,” the suit claims.
Ramen said he learned that the woman involved in the collision was Paltrow because Christiansen was yelling her name while berating Sanderson. Paltrow herself “didn’t say a single word” to Sanderson, he said, before she skied off.
Sanderson denied that he’s suing Paltrow because she’s a wealthy, high-profile actor. He said he waited nearly three years to file the suit because of his injuries and because of several “dead ends” in his efforts to hire lawyers. He’s upset that Paltrow and her attorneys are “trying to twist the story around,” he said.
Sanderson said that one of Paltrow’s lawyers told him, “‘You better count yourself lucky ’cause she hasn’t sued you yet.’ He actually told me that.”
He said he expected to hear from Paltrow, who has never contacted him, and added that an apology would have gone a long way toward settling the case.
“But I’m a proud person and I don’t like to be told I’m not telling the truth,” Sanderson said.
The lawsuit names Paltrow, Christiansen, the Deer Valley Resort Company and two unnamed resort employees who were with Paltrow’s group at the time of the collision. A spokeswoman for the resort said it had not received a copy of the lawsuit and does not comment on litigation.
It maintains that Sanderson “suffered physical and mental injuries … pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement,” including “anxiety, depression and other health problems”; that he “incurred medical expenses and additional life care expenses”; and he will “continue to suffer injuries and damages in the future due to the negligence” of Paltrow and Deer Valley.
Sanderson is also suing for punitive damages, legal costs and attorney fees.