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Jury finds Gwyneth Paltrow not at fault for ski crash

A jury has dismissed the complaint of a retired optometrist who sued Gwyneth Paltrow over injuries he sustained when they crashed into each other while skiing.

April 1, 2023
By Sam Metz
1 April 2023

Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t to blame for a 2016 collision with a retired optometrist on a beginner run at a posh Utah ski resort during a family vacation, a jury has decided, following a live-streamed trial that became a pop culture fixation.

A jury on Thursday awarded Paltrow $US1 ($A1.50) – a symbolic amount she asked for in order to show it wasn’t about money – and delivered her the vindication she sought when she opted to take it to trial rather than settle out of court.

“I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity,” Paltrow said in a statement released by her representatives that she also posted as an Instagram story for her 8.3 million followers. She also thanked the judge and jury for their work.

As Paltrow left court she touched Terry Sanderson’s shoulder and told him, “I wish you well,” he told reporters outside court. 

He responded, “Thank you dear.”

Paltrow’s lawyer, Steve Owens, added in a statement he read outside court that “Gwyneth has a history of advocating for what she believes in. This situation was no different and she will continue to stand up for what is right.”

Paltrow, an actress who in recent years has refashioned herself into a celebrity wellness entrepreneur, looked to her lawyers with a pursed lips smile when the judge read the eight-member jury’s verdict in the Park City courtroom. She sat intently through two weeks of testimony in what became the biggest celebrity court case since actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard faced off last year.

After the verdict was read, the judge polled the jury, which was unanimous on the decision. In civil court in Utah, only three-fourths of jurors need to agree on a verdict. The lawyer fees Paltrow asked for in her countersuit were not included in the jury’s verdict, leaving the bulk of the final award for the Park City judge to decide.

Addressing reporters after the verdict, Sanderson, 76, questioned whether the lawsuit was worth it and said he believed that people tend to naturally trust celebrities like Paltrow.

“You get some assumed credibility from being a famous person,” Sanderson said.

“Really, who wants to take on a celebrity?”

The dismissal concludes two weeks of courtroom proceedings that hinged largely on reputation rather than the monetary damages at stake in the case. Paltrow’s lawyers described the complaint against her as “utter BS” and painted the Goop founder-CEO as uniquely vulnerable to unfair, frivolous lawsuits due to her celebrity.

Paltrow took the witness stand during the trial to insist that the collision wasn’t her fault, and to describe how she was stunned when she felt “a body pressing against me and a very strange grunting noise”.

Throughout the trial, the word “uphill” became synonymous with “guilty, ” as lawyers focused on a largely unknown skiing code of conduct that stipulates that the skier who is downhill or ahead on the slope has the right of way.

Worldwide audiences followed the celebrity trial as if it were episodic television. Viewers scrutinised both Paltrow and Sanderson’s motives while lawyers directed questions to witnesses that often had less to do with the collision and more to do with their client’s reputations.

The jury’s decision marks a painful court defeat for Sanderson, the man who sued Paltrow for more than $US300,000 ($A447,300) over injuries he sustained when they crashed on the ski slope at Deer Valley Resort.

Both parties blamed the other for the collision. Sanderson, 76, broke four ribs and sustained a concussion after the two tumbled down the slope, with Paltrow landing on top of him.

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