Gwyneth Paltrow ski collision trial brings doctors to stand

Both parties blame the other for the collision and claim they were crashed into from behind.

(Rick Bowmer | AP Photo) Actor Gwyneth Paltrow enters the courtroom on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Park City, Utah. Doctors and family members are beginning to testify on the second day of trial in Utah, where Gwyneth Paltrow is accused of crashing into a skier at Deer Valley Resort, leaving him concussed and with four broken ribs.

A radiologist showed X-rays and brain scans on Wednesday morning as attorneys for a man suing Gwyneth Paltrow tried to persuade the jury that a 2016 ski collision at an upscale Utah ski resort inflicted lasting damage.

“After his accident, he deteriorated abruptly. And many of the activities that he used to do, he stopped doing,” Dr. Wendell Gibby said of 76-year-old Terry Sanderson, the man suing Paltrow, in court in Park City.

Though Sanderson is a retired doctor who skis at posh resorts and frequently travels internationally, according to court filings, his attorneys tried to frame the celebrity trial as a David-versus-Goliath struggle.

Gibby said brain images suggested it was unlikely that Sanderson crashed into Paltrow. The head trauma was likely caused by a skier crashing into Sanderson, he said, and the lasting effects on Sanderson’s overall health were consistent with the severity of the collision. “The rib fractures certainly corroborate that there was enough force to cause a head injury,” Gibby added.

Another doctor and family members are also expected to testify on Wednesday in a trial about a 2016 ski crash between Paltrow and Sanderson, who claims her recklessness left him with lasting injuries and brain damage. After a judge threw out Sanderson’s earlier $3.1 million lawsuit and ruled that he wasn’t entitled to punitive damages, Sanderson amended his claims and now alleges damages of “more than $300,000.”

The amount of money sought pales in comparison to the typical legal costs of a multiyear lawsuit and expert witness-heavy trial. More than a dozen are expected to testify throughout the eight-day trial in Park City — a posh ski town known for welcoming celebrities each year for the Sundance Film Festival.

In a counterclaim to Sanderson’s amended lawsuit, Paltrow is seeking $1 and attorney fees — a familiar, symbolic action that highlights how reputation, not money, is often what’s at stake for celebrities at trial like Paltrow. Taylor Swift similarly countersued a radio host for the same, symbolic amount in 2017.

Though the court is not publishing a witness list for the celebrity trial, attorneys said after Gibby, a neuropsychologist, and at least one of Sanderson’s daughters would likely be called to testify Wednesday.

Sanderson’s lawyers on Tuesday left the possibility open that they may call Paltrow to the stand depending on when others expected to testify arrive in Park City. Paltrow will likely testify Friday, and her children Moses and Apple are also expected to testify, her attorney said.

Both parties blame the other for the collision and claim they were crashed into from behind, relying on a little-known Utah law stipulating that whoever is downhill has the right of way when skiing and snowboarding.

Paltrow’s attorneys have pled with Judge Kent Holmberg to grant special restrictions throughout the actor-turned-wellness tycoon’s trial, including limiting photography both in the courtroom and in the public parking lot outside — where a rope cordons off Paltrow’s entrance and exit paths.

On the opening day of the trial, Paltrow used a blue notebook to shield her face from view when entering and exiting the courtroom. She and Sanderson appeared across the courtroom from each other, looking nonplussed to hear arguments that have become familiar over the seven years since they crashed.

The trial is expected to hinge on how the 10 jurors — six women and four men — interpret evidence from medical experts, and whether they see Sanderson’s injuries as directly related to the accident or a normal progression of an aging man. The jurors are all residents of wealthy Summit County, where the median home last month sold for $1.3 million, according to Redfin.

Paltrow’s attorneys cautioned the jury on Tuesday not to be biased by feeling pity for Sanderson. They called his story “utter B.S.” building off earlier claims from court filings and previous depositions where they accused him of suing to exploit the Oscar-winning star of “Shakespeare in Love’s” wealth and celebrity.

Sanderson’s attorneys have attempted to paint her as a negligent celebrity with little care for the injuries inflicted upon the 76-year-old military veteran. They called Sanderson’s ex-girlfriend and a ski companion who was nearby during the crash to testify on Tuesday. Karlene Davidson said the crash had “changed” Sanderson and contributed to the demise of their romance. Craig Ramon testified that Paltrow hit Sanderson. Despite that, he said afterward that one of her family’s ski instructors came up to him and said “Your buddy just took out Gwyneth Paltrow.”

The trial underway in Park City has begun with Sanderson’s team’s witnesses. Paltrow’s attorneys have said that her witnesses, including her two children, will speak later.