PARK CITY, Utah (KUTV) — Gwyneth Paltrow's lawyer called the story of a retired optometrist who is suing her over a 2016 ski collision “utter B.S.” on Tuesday during the trial's opening day in Utah, where the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer appeared in court looking somber.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2019 and later amended, which accused the actress and lifestyle guru of crashing into Terry Sanderson while skiing at Deer Valley Resort in 2016 and causing him a permanent brain injury.
Sanderson's attorneys said Paltrow crashed into Sanderson with such force that he broke four ribs and left him with a concussion. They claimed the concussion left him unable to adequately convey the seriousness of the crash, saying a ski instructor confronted him and berated him after the incident while Paltrow "bolted" away from the scene.
Greg Ramone, who said was skiing with Sanderson and a handful of people from a Meetup.com group, recounted his version of the crash involving Paltrow and Sanderson, both of whom have claimed in different court documents that they had the right-of-way before the incident.
Ramone said he considered himself an acquaintance of Sanderson and told the court he would not consider him a close friend.
Ramone said it was Paltrow who caused the crash. He told the jury that he heard a scream before seeing a skier "slam into the back of Terry."
Answering "no" to multiple questions from the plaintiff's team about whether she stayed at the scene, offered assistance, asked if Sanderson was OK or injured, provided her contact information or offered to call ski patrol.
You never leave an accident," he said about skiing conduct. "If there's two people (who) collide, you never leave. You make sure everyone's OK and you actually give your contact information to each other."
He stated he only knew the other skier was Paltrow because a ski instructor who worked for Deer Valley at the time told him, "Gwyneth Paltrow just took out your buddy."
The ski instructor, identified as Eric Christiansen, was named as a defendant in an original hit-and-run lawsuit seeking $3.9 million in damages and alleging the instructor filed a false report. The current suit is an amended version naming only Paltrow as a defendant after a judge dismissed the hit-and-run charges, reducing alleged damages to $300,000.
Ramone said Christiansen skied to the scene and was berating Sanderson, saying "what did you do?" multiple times. A report filed by Christiansen with the ski resort was presented as evidence, in which he wrote that he spoke to Sanderson and that Sanderson had admitted he was the uphill skier.
It would mean Paltrow had the right-of-way.
Ramone said Christiansen didn't ask that question, though, and stated Sanderson never said anything to Christiansen.
He was just out of it," Ramone said about Sanderson.
He reported the ski instructor "yanked" Sanderson to his feet before skiing away.
Following the collision and encounter with Christiansen, Ramone testified Sanderson couldn't remember his name or where he was as the two tried to get down the mountain. He was eventually taken by toboggan down the slope after Ramone said he flagged down a different Deer Valley employee to report Sanderson had a head injury.
Paltrow's defense recounted her side of the story.
Her attorney said she and her family were on the Bandana run when the incident happened.
Gwyneth is a conservative skier," according to her attorney, who said she always skis to the right with the assumption faster skiers will be on the left.
The defense stated Paltrow was skiing much slower than the plaintiff's team alleges when she saw two skis between hers, and a man bumped into her.
Her first reaction is, 'Get away from this,'" her attorney said, which she tried to do as their skies became intertwined and they both fell.
The defense said Sanderson was the uphill skier and was required to yield to anyone downslope. However, Sanderson was making a wide turn, the defense stated, when he collided with Paltrow.
Paltrow's defense showed the jury a report from a then-Deer Valley ski instructor, who was originally named as a defendant in Sanderson's first $3.9 million lawsuit but was later dismissed, along with all other defendants except for Paltrow, from an amended suit that brought damages sought to $300,000.
The attorney said the ski instructor's report showed that Sanderson admitted he was the uphill skier and that Paltrow had the right-of-way.
The defense added that the plaintiff already had issues with his sight and his hearing, alleging they were likely contributors to the crash.
Sanderson did not exhibit behavior of someone with a serious brain injury following the collision, Paltrow's attorney said, stating medical issues the plaintiff reported likely had nothing to do with the crash.
Attorney Steve Owens cautioned jurors not to let sympathy for Sanderson's medical ailments skew their judgements. He questioned the 76-year-old's credibility, noting his age and documented, pre-collision brain injuries. He said that the Utah man had confirmed he was fine after the crash. Owens also said that Sanderson posted a “very happy, smiling picture” of himself online, being tobogganed down post-crash.
His memories of the case get better over the years. That's all I'm gonna say. That's not how memory works,” Owens said.
The defense said Sanderson also posted to Facebook that day that he was "famous" because of the incident, along with a link to a meetup.com URL that is no longer valid, which showed there was no evidence for Sanderson's claims.
"He's a poster," the attorney told the court, saying Sanderson's frequent Facebook updates were "good for us" because it helped the defense put together a timeline.
The defense projected an image of what appeared to be an email with "I'm famous..." in the subject line. It wasn't immediately clear if there was also a Facebook post.
Amid a series of objections from the plaintiff's attorneys, Third District Judge Kent R. Holmberg called the counsel to the bench for an off-the-record conversation. Statements continued following the brief pause, though the objections continued.
Paltrow's defense wrapped its opening statements with a complaint about the number of overruled objections from the plaintiff's team, which prompted another off-microphone conversation between the judge and the legal teams.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this report.