Gwyneth Paltrow Ski Trial: The 9 Most Bizarre Moments

While Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski crash trial didn’t exactly deliver the same level of celebrity drama as Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard, the eight-day showdown in Park City, Utah, still managed to offer plenty of bizarre moments in the lead-up to Thursday’s climax where the jury ruled Paltrow was not liable in plaintiff Dr. Terry Sanderson’s civil suit alleging she had “hit and run” crashed into the retired doctor on a ski slope, resulting in ongoing health problems.

Below are nine of the oddest, funniest and most memorable moments from the proceedings, which managed to take a relatively routine ski slope run-in and turn it into a surreal legal spectacle. And yes, they are in order from the least to the most wild.

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9. “I wish you well …” After solemnly nodding as the trial’s verdict was read, Paltrow appeared to whisper to Sanderson some parting words after their six years of contentious litigation: “I wish you well.” Which, you know, is rather nice — even if not one person who has watched Paltrow endure being “treated like a punching bag,” as her attorney put it during the trial, actually believes it.

8. Paltrow’s attorney Stephen Owens seemed to seal the deal against Sanderson on the second to last day of testimony, when he called Sanderson back up to the stand and did a slideshow presentation of his social media posts since the accident, showing the 76-year-old seemingly leading an active and happy lifestyle of vacation after vacation, which appeared to run counter to his claims that the accident left him with “permanent traumatic brain injury … suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.” Owens said during closing: “He doesn’t tell his [doctors] he’s flying all over the world, that he’s biking, that he’s the poster boy for fitness at age 75! He’s posting [online] every darned thing. This isn’t like me sending out a private investigator and trying to find pictures. All I have to do is [type] ‘Terry Sanderson,’ and my God — the man is Mr. Activity.”

7. Sanderson’s attorneys had a rather interesting closing defense for their client, apparently realizing they were facing an uphill battle. Robert Sykes — amid frequent phlegmy coughs from a cold — surprised the audience by declaring: “I believe Gwyneth Paltrow. … She says, ‘Terry hit me in the back …’ I think she sincerely believes she got hit in the back. … She’s not a liar. But a sincere belief doesn’t make it so.” It seemed ripe for the Dodgeball meme: Bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for him.

6. Sanderson’s closing defense had quite a few digressions. The team got into the Magna Carta, Pilgrims and even broke down Latin definition of “verdict” (Sir, is this going to be on the test?). But the most surreal “Where is this going?” bit was the extended cow-milking anecdote, which went like this (and mind you, this is a significantly shortened version): “I was in the legislature with a guy named Glen Brown. He invited me up to his farm. Young lawyer, showing me how to milk cows. Never done it. Got up there and he showed me around his barn. It was really sophisticated. But when you think about why Terry never came home [metaphorically speaking, from his ski trip accident], think about this story: He put a little stool out there for me. I sat down in my jeans and I tried to milk the cow by hand. It’s very hard to do. I was able to squeeze out a little bit of milk. I said, ‘How do you do all this?’ He showed me this very sophisticated machine that milks cows automatically. He says, ‘Without this, Bob, I’d never make it.’ … That milking mechanism was the executive function for Glen Brown’s farm. Now one of Terry’s saddest problems is his loss of executive function … and that’s why part of him is still up there [on the ski slope].” And this digression is why attorneys probably shouldn’t be paid by the hour.

5. While another Sanderson attorney, Lawrence Buhler, tried to explain his client’s at times off-putting personality on the witness stand like this: “When people get to know [Sanderson], after a while, they don’t want to deal with him anymore. These are real injuries. … Your personality changes permanently. … You lose everybody who knows you. You lose everybody — your family, they’ll put up with you, and maybe the lawyers. But, really, they’re just putting up with you.” He then suggested the jury award his client $3.2 million, which is a bit like saying: “Sure, our client acts like a jerk, and we don’t like him either, but that’s all Gwyneth Paltrow’s fault, so you should give him millions of dollars.”

4. Sanderson’s attorney Kristin VanOrman took on Paltrow on the witness stand. Attorneys frequently flip back and forth during exams from chummy charm to vicious attacks as a strategy for trying to get witnesses off guard and to open up, but a few of VanOrman’s remarks struck viewers as sounding a bit like fangirl cringe: VanOrman asked Paltrow’s height (“just under 5’10”) and then VanOrman enthused, “I am so jealous!” Paltrow replied, “I think I’m shrinking, though.” VanOrman: “I have to wear 4-inch heels just to make it to 5’5″!” Paltrow dryly assured, “They’re very nice.” VanOrman later called Paltrow “small but mighty …” and then amended as if scolding herself, “Actually, you’re not that small …” When Paltrow confirms she’s a good tipper, VanOrman added, “Fantastic! I wouldn’t expect anything less.” It felt as if VanOrman was thisclose to asking Paltrow to brunch.

3. Sanderson’s attorneys at one point wanted the Oscar winner to physically reenact the crash, raising the specter of somebody pressing themselves up against Paltrow’s back in the courtroom. The idea was all the more alarming given Paltrow said she briefly wondered if she was being sexually assaulted during the collision. Thankfully, the judge quickly shot down the idea. “Praise to the judge for not letting this be reenacted with Gwyneth being assaulted in front of us all,” Owens said.

2. VanOrman scored a viral bull’s-eye when she was asking Paltrow about her $1 countersuit. Paltrow replied, “Well, I lost half a day of skiing.” The quote was accurate and even appropriate for the line of questioning, given Paltrow’s ski resort bill came to more than $9,000 and she was countersuing for a symbolic $1. But the elite privileged vibe was ripe for online mockery and memes — especially given that even Paltrow’s team admitted Sanderson broke four ribs in the collision.

1. Sanderson didn’t exactly help his credibility when he suddenly seemed to compare Paltrow to convicted late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. VanOrman asked if he regretted bringing his lawsuit, Sanderson replied, “That’s the purpose, I think, to make me regret bringing this lawsuit. It’s the pain of trying to sue a celebrity.” Pressed if it was important to him to bring this lawsuit, Sanderson started to get frustrated and semi-rant: “It was. I was seriously injured and I had so many insults added to that … This is obviously an issue that somebody needs to be accountable for. If they’re not held accountable, they’re going to do it again.” Then this happened: “Now we have the … molesting of young children on an island — denial!” Paltrow’s attorney quickly slammed the comparison as “ridiculous testimony.” To her credit, VanOrman ended her questioning as fast as humanly possible.

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