Gwyneth Paltrow's ski crash trial is underway: What you need to know

Gwyneth Paltrow's trial over 2016 skiing accident lawsuit has begun in a Utah court. (Photo: Court TV)
Gwyneth Paltrow's trial over 2016 skiing accident lawsuit has begun in a Utah court. (Photo: Court TV)

Gwyneth Paltrow's trial over a 2016 ski accident is underway.

The 50-year-old actress turned Goop founder, whose days are usually spent discussing her "wellness" routine and the body part-scented candles she sells, arrived in a Utah courtroom on Tuesday for her civil case. She was dropped off in black SUV and wore a long green coat and sunglasses.

The jury trial is being streamed.

The Shakespeare in Love star is expected to testify — and her children, Apple and Moses Martin, as well as husband Brad Falchuk, will testify on her behalf. She was sued by retired optometrist Terry Sanderson in 2019 after he alleged that she injured him after she crashed into him on a Deer Valley ski slope and sped off. Paltrow countersued, claiming it was Sanderson who crashed into her.

Here's what you need to know about the case...

What happened?

Sanderson, 76, claimed the Academy Award winner violently crashed into him from behind while they were skiing a beginner slope — known as the Bandana Run — at posh Deer Valley Resort on Feb. 26, 2016. Sanderson broke four ribs in the crash and sustained a concussion. He said that Paltrow left him on the ground, not checking on him, as she and her entourage continued down the slope.

The lawsuit

In January 2019, Sanderson filed a negligence lawsuit against Paltrow in Utah state court over the accident, asking for more than $3.1 million in damages. Paltrow was "skiing out of control," Sanderson's attorneys claimed in the lawsuit, "knocking him down hard, knocking him out and causing a brain injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries. Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured." They called it a "hit-and-run ski crash," going against the rules of the resort, which state you have to stay around after a collision and exchange info.

Sanderson also alleged that the Deer Valley ski instructor who was with Paltrow at the time, Eric Christiansen, failed to call for help and also "falsely" accused Sanderson of having caused the crash. Sanderson also sued Christiansen and the resort for "negligent actions."

Paltrow's spokesperson at the time said the lawsuit was "completely without merit. Anyone who reads the facts will realize that" and she expected "to be vindicated." In their response to the lawsuit, Paltrow's legal team wrote, "He demanded Ms. Paltrow pay him millions. If she did not pay, she would face negative publicity resulting from his allegations."

Sanderson — an experienced skier of over 30 years — spoke about his injuries at a news conference. His attorney said he sustained a "closed brain injury," which was likened to "shaken baby syndrome," which had long-term effects including short-term memory, personality changes and problems with direction.

Sanderson said in the months after the incident, he "felt mentally ill" due to his brain injury. He said he "sat in a chair" much of the day and "couldn't do anything, couldn't function." He'd then "crawl in bed " due to an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion.

At the same press conference, Sanderson said that he was skiing at a regular pace down the hill when, "I heard this hysterical scream like you never hear on a ski run ... like King Kong came out of the jungle or something." He was hit in the back near his shoulder blades resulting in him crashing face first into the slope. "My ribs were really sore, and my brain felt like I'd been injected with novocaine. It was just numb, nothing was making sense," he said. His friend Craig Ramon who was skiing with him at the time, filled in some of the blanks because Sanderson was slow to remember his name after the crash and couldn't recall where he was skiing.

The countersuit

A month later, the Iron Man star countersued Sanderson, saying he was actually the one at fault for the crash and his lawsuit was an "attempt to exploit her celebrity and wealth." The filing stated "she was enjoying skiing with her family on vacation in Utah" when Sanderson "ploughed into her back." She claimed she "was shaken and upset, and quit skiing for the day even though it was still morning." As for Sanderson, Paltrow's attorney claimed he "was not knocked out. Immediately after the collision, he stood up and addressed Ms. Paltrow. Ms Paltrow expressed her anger that he ran into her, and he apologized."

Paltrow's legal team also claimed Sanderson "told his doctor ... one year [before the ski accident] that he was blind in his right eye and his "his vision in his left eye was decreasing." They also said Sanderson's "doctor conducted neuropsychological testing that did not demonstrate any deficits in his cognitive functioning."

Paltrow's countersuit seeks attorney fees and a symbolic $1 in damages.

Sanderson's initial lawsuit was dropped and his complaint was amended to seek $300,000 instead of $3 million. The Utah resort and Paltrow's ski instructor were both removed from the lawsuit.

The trial

Four years after initial lawsuit, Paltrow arrived in Park City District Court on March 21, 2023 as the trial by jury got underway. Sources told the New York Post that she's expected to testify. However it's unclear when she'll take the stand.

During opening statements, Paltrow's attorney said that Sanderson's story is simply untrue — and he's the one who hit her. He said the day of the incident, Paltrow was on a ski trip with her now-husband Falchuk and it was memorable because it was the first trip blending their two families. The four children were accompanied by ski instructors. Her two children, Apple and Moses, will testify on their mother's behalf and so will Falchuk, her attorney said.