Why Gwyneth Paltrow Is on Trial in Utah Over a 2016 Ski Collision
Gwyneth Paltrow is appearing in a Park City, Utah court room this week for a civil lawsuit over a 2016 incident on the slopes.
On Tuesday, the Academy Award winner, 50, made her first appearance at Park City District Court in the civil trial, which is expected to last eight days, for a lawsuit brought against her by retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, who first filed a lawsuit against her back in Jan. 2019.
In Sanderson's 2019 lawsuit, he accused Paltrow of colliding with him from behind while skiing down a beginner-level slope at Deer Valley Resort with a ski instructor back in Feb. 2016. Sanderson also alleged the ski instructor filed a false report claiming Paltrow did not cause the accident at the time.
Sanderson originally described the incident as "a hit-and-run ski crash at Deer Valley, Utah" where Paltrow allegedly "skied out of control and hit" him in the back, adding she "got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured," according to his 2019 lawsuit.
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The doctor requested damages in excess of $3.1 million, claiming the crash resulted in "permanent traumatic brain injury," four broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement
A rep for Paltrow told PEOPLE at the time: "This lawsuit is completely without merit. Anyone who reads the facts will realize that."
Manny Carabel/WireImage; Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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Paltrow also denied the allegations in a countersuit filed the next month, claiming that Sanderson actually was the one who hit her from behind and is now trying to "exploit her celebrity and wealth."
The Goop mogul's countersuit says that Sanderson "apologized" for the accident at the time. It also claims that the ski instructor, Eric Christiansen, recorded Sanderson in the initial incident report, saying "he had not seen Ms. Paltrow."
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"She did not knock him down. He knocked her down. He was not knocked out. Ms. Paltrow was skiing carefully. She skied slowly to stay behind her children, who were receiving skiing instruction slightly further down the mountain," the actress alleged in her 2019 countersuit.
Before a jury was sworn in on Tuesday, Judge Kent R. Holmberg ruled that the jury will not hear arguments concerning an alleged "hit-and-run," as Dr. Sanderson claimed in his lawsuit. The judge said that he established, via evidence, that Paltrow had stopped and determined that Sanderson did not have any significant injuries before she and a ski instructor, who was with her at the time, left the scene of the incident.
"Distracted skiers cause crashes," Sanderson's attorney, Lawrence Buhler, said in his opening statement Tuesday as he alleged Paltrow was "blindly skiing down a mountain while looking up and to the side" before the crash occurred.
"She knew what she was doing was dangerous. She knew she was reckless," Buhler added, noting that Sanderson received four broken ribs and "permanent brain damage" from the incident.
Paltrow's attorney Stephen Owens alleged in his opening statement that Sanderson captured GoPro footage of the incident that has not been established as evidence in the case. He also argued that Sanderson texted one of his daughters "I'm famous" in the hours after the initial incident.
According to a calendar of scheduled hearings for the case, the trial is expected to run through Thursday, March 30.