Gwyneth Paltrow took the stand in a Park City courtroom on Friday afternoon, and the Oscar-winning actor’s performance was consistent. Again and again, she said the Utah man suing her for allegedly crashing into him on the ski slopes at Deer Valley actually ran into her.
“I was hit by Mr. Sanderson and he was at fault,” she said of Terry Anderson, the retired optometrist suing her over their Deer Valley ski collision in 2016.
She described the collision as “very strange” — and slow, stating Friday that after Sanderson’s skis appeared between hers from behind, it took about two full seconds for them to fall. She also said that Sanderson was “making some strange noises” when he collided with her from behind, “and he was large.” (Sanderson is 5 feet, 5 inches tall; Paltrow is 5 feet, 10 inches tall.)
Paltrow briefly thought the man was sexually assaulting her, she said — an assumption she previously shared during a 2020 deposition.
“That was a quick thought that went through my head,” Paltrow said Friday. She went on to say that there was no grabbing or groping, and she does not believe Sanderson sexually assaulted her.
After they fell, Paltrow ended up on top of Sanderson, who suffered four broken ribs and a head injury, his complaint states.
“I was confused at first. … It was a very strange thing to happen on the ski slope,” Paltrow said Friday. She apologized to Sanderson, who was in the courtroom, for screaming at him that day that he “skied directly into my ‘F-ing’ back. … I was pretty upset.”
Paltrow was called as a witness by the plaintiff’s attorneys on the fourth day of what’s expected to be an eight-day trial. Sanderson, the 76-year-old suing her, claims that she ran into him from behind in the February 2016 crash.
He originally asked for more than $3 million in damages, but 3rd District Judge Kent Holmberg limited his claim; he’s now asking for “more than $300,000.”
A witness testified earlier this week that Paltrow was looking back at her son and was distracted at the time of the collision; Paltrow denied that Friday. She also denied that she left the scene of the crash without leaving her name and contact information, because one of the ski instructors she hired did so for her.
She admitted that she did not see that exchange happen herself, but that the ski instructor later told her he’d done so. Paltrow added that allowing someone to handle filling out paperwork and speak on her behalf is common “in the acting world.”
Paltrow scoffed at Craig Ramon, the eyewitness who testified on Monday that she ran into Sanderson. “I did not believe his testimony. … I don’t believe that he saw what he thinks he saw,” Paltrow said. And she said she’s “not sure how you can discern” what happened “if you’re 40 feet away and colorblind.”
When Sanderson’s lawyer questioned what colorblindness had to do with anything, Paltrow said Ramon was wrong “because Mr. Sanderson categorically hit me on that ski slope. And that is the truth.”
Later that afternoon, one of Sanderson’s lawyers argued that Paltrow had “lied under oath.” The lawyer eventually apologized, but maintained that there have been “inconsistencies” in Paltrow’s testimony.
Asked why Paltrow didn’t stick around longer to check on Sanderson’s condition, she said, “I think you have to keep in mind — when you’re the victim of a crash, your psychology is not necessarily thinking about the person who perpetrated it.”
She said she “stuck around long enough” for Sanderson to stand up and say he was OK. Other witnesses have disputed that version of events.
In her countersuit, Paltrow claims Sanderson is now trying to exploit her wealth and fame. She’s suing for “symbolic damages” of $1, court records state, “which is all I was asking for,” Paltrow said Friday.
Sanderson’s lawyer pounded away at the fact that she’s asking for more than that — for legal fees that will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars — but Paltrow said that she has “delineated” between those two issues in her mind.
Her actual damages, she said, included that she lost half a day of skiing after paying for a full-day pass. (Her knee and back were injured so she did not return to the slopes the afternoon of the collision, she said, although she did not seek medical attention.) The ski lessons for her children and her fiance’s children — which cost almost $9,000 for the day — were also interrupted, she said.
A series of medical experts, as well two of Sanderson’s daughters, have testified so far about Sanderson’s injuries in the crash and their lingering effects on him. Paltrow’s lawyers have tried to cast doubt on their testimony, arguing that the effects were less severe than Sanderson and the medical experts say they have been, or were the normal result of aging.
Paltrow testified that she felt compassion for Sanderson. “I feel very sorry for him. It seems like he’s had a very difficult life,” she said. “But I did not cause the accident. So I cannot be at fault for anything that subsequently happened to him.”
Next week, Paltrow’s lawyers are expected to call their own medical experts; Deer Valley ski instructors; Paltrow’s children, Apple and Moses Martin; and her now-husband, TV producer Brad Falchuk. Her children and Falchuk were skiing with her at Deer Valley on the day of the collision but did not see it happen.
Paltrow’s lawyers have pointed to an email Sanderson sent his daughters hours after the collision that included “I’m famous” in the subject line. The full subject line reads, “I’m famous … at what cost?”
Paltrow’s attorneys have also pointed to an email from one of Sanderson’s daughters, Shae Herath, which stated: “I also can’t believe this is all on GoPro.” On Friday morning, Herath testified that she assumed such camera footage existed and never actually saw it.
On Friday morning, attorney Stephen Owens — who is representing Paltrow — hinted that footage of the collision has been located. No such footage had been entered into evidence as of Friday afternoon.
The trial is scheduled to resume Monday at 9 a.m.