Movie star Gwyneth Paltrow will stand trial in Park City starting Tuesday over allegations that she crashed into a man while skiing at Deer Valley Resort in 2016, then abandoned the scene, leaving the injured man laying in the snow.
Paltrow was skiing down the resort’s “Bandana” beginner run with guidance from a ski instructor when a Summit County lawsuit states she “skied out of control” and plowed into the back of Terry Sanderson, who was downhill from her.
The hit-and-run ski crash left the retired optometrist with a brain injury, concussion, four broken ribs and other serious injuries, the complaint states. He was 69 at the time of the crash.
The complaint also names Deer Valley Resort and three Deer Valley employees as codefendants.
The crash involving Sanderson and Paltrow happened on Feb. 26, 2016. Nearly three years later, Sanderson sued Paltrow in January 2019.
The day of the crash, Sanderson had met up with a few acquaintances to ski, he said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. While heading down the resort’s “Bandana” run, Sanderson noticed a few large “slow down” signs, he said, so he decreased his speed while maintaining the flow of downhill traffic.
That was when he heard a “hysterical scream,” he said, which sounded like nothing he’d ever heard before.
“It was just instantaneous,” Sanderson said at the time. “I got hit in my back. ... It felt like it had just drove me forward.”
On impact, he remembered not being able to control himself, and his body going down, he said. “And then that’s all I remember to that point — just out.”
The lawsuit initially named two causes of action against Paltrow: negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In April 2022, a partial summary judgment dismissed Sanderson’s emotional distress claim; the trial will focus on the remaining claim of negligence.
Paltrow acknowledged the crash in a counterclaim filed on Feb. 20, 2019, which seeks “symbolic damages” of $1, plus legal fees. The document states Paltrow will give any money recovered to charity.
In her counterclaim, Paltrow asserted that Sanderson actually hit her — and that he was the uphill skier in the crash. She also accused Sanderson of trying to “exploit her celebrity and wealth.”
Paltrow said she sustained a full-body “blow” when Sanderson collided with her, the counterclaim states. She told Sanderson that she was angry with him, and he apologized, but Paltrow was still left “shaken and upset,” the counterclaim states, noting that she did not resume skiing that day.
Deer Valley follows the National Ski Areas Association responsibility code, which states that downhill skiers have the right of way — but all skiers must always stay in control and be able to stop to avoid people.
Although Sanderson said that Paltrow and Deer Valley employees skied away from him after the crash, Paltrow argued that Sanderson said he was OK when an instructor checked on him.
Her counterclaim states that the same employee — identified as Eric Christensen, who is named as a codefendant in the complaint — prepared a report that determined Sanderson was responsible for the crash, as he had “taken [Paltrow] out from behind.”
Sanderson’s lawsuit alleges that this employee did not see the crash, and that the statements in the employee’s report are false.
Paltrow’s counterclaim asserts Sanderson’s injuries were overstated — because after the crash, an examination with his doctor did not show any deficits in cognitive functioning, the filing alleges.
Medical records show a diagnosis of a “mild” concussion, the counterclaim states, and that Sanderson has vacationed internationally for “extended periods of time” since the collision.
Sanderson also had 15 other chronic medical issues, the counterclaim states, and had told his doctor a year earlier that he was blind in his right eye, and that his vision in his left eye was decreasing.
“She did not knock him down,” the counterclaim states, “or cause him to suffer a concussion, brain injury, or broken ribs.”
During his 2019 news conference, Sanderson said that he had to be taken down the rest of the run by a ski patrol toboggan, since when he attempted to make it down on his own, an acquaintance realized Sanderson seemed to have forgotten how to ski.
“I kept thinking, ‘I hope my head is still on straight and my neck is OK,’” Sanderson said during the news conference. “Luckily I had friends that were supportive and called and checked in on me and helped me, and stayed with me in some cases, because I sat in a chair and I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t function. And so I’d get so tired I’d go to bed.”
Sanderson said during the news conference that he was still navigating the long-term effects from the crash. Others close to him had noticed a change in his personality after he was injured, he said.
“You know, I’ve skied for over 30 years. I’ve never knocked anybody down and hurt them. I’ve never been knocked down or gotten hurt,” Sanderson said. “They’re trying to twist the story around. It’s like, I have some pride in the truth, and so I guess maybe that’s why I want to push forward.”
The civil trial is set to begin Tuesday morning at Park City District Court. It’s scheduled to last eight days, a court spokesperson said.