Gwyneth Paltrow was not at fault for the 2016 ski crash that a Utah man said she caused, a Park City jury found Thursday.
The jury awarded the Oscar-winning movie star the “symbolic” $1 that she asked for in her countersuit against retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, who originally sued Paltrow in 2019, arguing that she caused the wreck.
Sanderson suffered four broken ribs and head injuries in the Feb. 26, 2016, crash. He was 69 at the time of the collision.
Stephen Owens, Paltrow’s attorney, said outside the courtroom Thursday that the actor was “very happy” with the verdict.
”Gwyneth has a history of advocating for what she believes in. This situation was no different,” Owens said. “She will continue to stand for what she believes is right.”
In a statement released Thursday, Paltrow said that she felt “acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity.”
“I am pleased with the outcome,” her statement continued, “and I appreciate all of the hard work of [3rd District Judge Kent R. Holmberg] and the jury, and thank them for their thoughtfulness in handling this case.”
Sanderson, meanwhile, seemed to question whether the lawsuit was worth it while addressing reporters after the verdict, The Associated Press reported.
“You get some assumed credibility from being a famous person,” Sanderson said, according to The Associated Press. “Really, who wants to take on a celebrity?”
In their closing arguments Thursday, attorneys representing Paltrow and lawyers representing Sanderson each maintained that the other was at fault for the crash.
While representing Sanderson, attorney Robert Sykes said, “Gwyneth is a good person. She’s a good mother.” But despite her “sincere belief” that Sanderson caused the crash, he said, “she’s wrong based on the evidence.”
That evidence, presented over the eight-day civil trial, showed that Paltrow was distracted by her children when she crashed into Sanderson, Sykes argued — specifically by her then-9-year-old son, Moses, who called out to her to watch him skiing.
Owens was more strident in his comments about Sanderson: “He hit her. He hurt her! And then he asked her for $3 million,” Owens told the jury Thursday. “That is not fair.”
Sanderson had asked for more than $3.1 million in his initial complaint, which a judge dismissed. He then filed an amended complaint seeking “more than $300,000.” (In closing arguments Thursday, his attorneys argued that Sanderson was entitled to $33 an hour, 16 hours a day in damages for the seven years since the collision, plus the 10 years that the 76-year-old may still have to live — amounting to just over $3.2 million.)
In his closing arguments, Owens pointed to photos of Sanderson traveling after the collision, arguing that the images were proof that he was not seriously injured in the crash.
“Don’t we all feel bad for him,” Owens told the jury. “I would have liked, by the way, at least a discount on the camel ride [during one of the trips] on the request for damages. … He’s 76. My parents — I’m not being flippant — they were dead by then. They certainly weren’t taking trips around the world.”
Before the verdict was announced, Owens went on to mock Sanderson’s claims that he had to give up certain things, including skiing, since the collision. “Well, I mean, I stopped playing church basketball after my knee injury,” Owens told the jury. “I’m like, I love it. But I’m— I can’t do it anymore, OK? So sometimes we have to give things up, especially when we’re 76 years old. I’m sorry. I mean, that’s life.”
On behalf of Sanderson, Sykes all but called Deer Valley instructor Eric Christiansen — who was hired by Paltrow to teach her son to ski the day of the crash, and who testified in her favor — a liar. He ridiculed Christiansen’s testimony Thursday, calling it “unbelievable and inconsistent,” and said, “The flaky Deer Valley investigation, I think, was just a cover-up.”
Owens countered that Christiansen “is not a liar.”
“He is not someone who covers up,” he said. “He is not someone who falsifies reports.”
In another back-and-forth Thursday, Sykes pointed to a scream that Paltrow allegedly let out before the collision, which multiple said witnesses they heard, as proof that she was not hit from behind. “If you’re the downhill skier, like Gwyneth claims she was, you don’t scream at something we can’t see,” he argued. “You don’t. It’s the uphill skier that’s going to make that scream.”
Owens, in turn, questioned the testimony of eyewitness Craig Ramon — an acquaintance of Sanderson’s — who said that he saw Paltrow collide with Sanderson from behind. “Craig Ramon would be the definition of a bad witness,” Owens said.
Both sides emphasized the strengths of their medical experts’ testimony and disputed the testimony of medical experts called by the other side. Sanderson’s lawyers argued that he had been seriously injured; Paltrow’s lawyers downplayed the extent of those those injuries.
Owens noted that Paltrow’s 2016 trip to Deer Valley Resort with her then-fiance, now-husband — TV producer Brad Falchuk — was planned so their respective children could meet and so she and Falchuck could determine if their two families could blend.
“They lost a half day of bonding and even more, because now everyone’s stressed,” he said, praising Paltrow for the “courage” it took for her to sit in the courtroom “and be pounded like a punching bag.”
He told jurors that Paltrow is standing on principle. “The easy thing for my client would have been to write a check and be done with it. But what does that tell her kids?”
Sanderson’s attorneys on Thursday maintained that he was the victim and that he deserved to be compensated.
As Paltrow left courtroom after the verdict was read, she touched Sanderson’s shoulder and said, “I wish you well,” Sanderson told reporters outside the courthouse, according to The Associated Press.
He responded, “Thank you dear,” The Associated Press reported.