Gwyneth Paltrow’s defense relies on experts in ski collision case

Judge wants defense to finish on Thursday.

(Jeffrey D. Allred | The Deseret News via AP, Pool) Gwyneth Paltrow leaves court during the lawsuit trial of Terry Sanderson vs. Gwyneth Paltrow, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Park City. Paltrow is accused in a lawsuit of crashing into a skier during a 2016 family ski vacation, leaving him with brain damage and four broken ribs.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s attorneys continued to rely mostly on experts to mount their defense on Wednesday, the seventh day of the trial over her 2016 ski collision with a 76-year-old retired optometrist.

In their last full day to call witnesses, Paltrow’s defense team called to the stand a radiologist, a neurologist, a neuropsychologist and a forensic psychologist, leaning on medical analysis rather than the testimony of the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer’s friends or husband in order to make their case.

More than just a display of their financial investment in the case, Paltrow’s team is making a gamble. Throughout the trial, bombshell testimony from Paltrow and Terry Sanderson, the man suing her, has engaged the jury, while hours of jargon-dense medical testimony has tested their endurance.

[Read more: Gwyneth Paltrow trial shines light on Wild West of ski law]

Experts called by Paltrow’s side testified that brain scans suggest Sanderson’s cognitive abilities began to decline years before the crash with Paltrow. They challenged claims made by his doctors, who last week attributed his disorientation and memory loss to post-concussion syndrome.

“Aging can result in this,” radiologist Carl Black said, pointing to Sanderson’s brain scan, which he said showed microvascular ischemic disease of white matter, “because we’re all deteriorating to some degree or another everyday we live.”

Members of the eight-member jury sat transfixed — with some on the edge of their seats — on Friday when Paltrow said on the stand that she initially thought she was being “violated” when the collision happened. Three days later Sanderson gave an entirely different account, saying she ran into him and sent him “absolutely flying.”

(Jeffrey D. Allred | The Deseret News via AP, Pool) Dr. Irving Scher shows an accident simulation during testimony in Gwyneth Paltrow's trial, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Park City.

Time constraints have challenged both sides throughout the eight-day trial and forced difficult decisions about who to call to testify from their lengthy roster of witnesses. The judge presiding over the trial in Park City has made it clear that he wants both sides to give their closing arguments by Thursday afternoon — in order to give the jury enough time to deliberate and come to a consensus.

Sanderson is asking for more than $300,000, saying that Paltrow’s recklessness on the slope caused the crash, leaving him with four broken ribs and years of post-concussion symptoms including confusion, memory loss and irritability. Paltrow has countersued for a symbolic $1 and attorney fees, alleging that Sanderson veered into her from behind.

The amount of money at stake for both sides pales in comparison to the typical legal costs of a multiyear lawsuit, private security detail and expert witness-heavy trial.

The second week of trial has made clear that attorneys have spared little expense on making their case.

Sanderson’s attorney told the jury last week that, for him, the trial was about “value, not cost.”

To accompany their expert witnesses — many who have testified to being paid more than $10,000 — Paltrow’s defense team has played multiple high-resolution animations depicting their side’s version of the events that took place in February 2016 on a beginner run at Utah’s Deer Valley Resort.

After both sides give closing arguments on Thursday, the jury will likely make their decision later that day or on Friday.