Gwyneth Paltrow was in Park City, Utah, on Tuesday for the start of a trial over a retired optometrist's allegation that the actor and entrepreneur crashed into him on the ski slopes in 2016 and left him with serious injuries.
Both Paltrow and the retired doctor, Terry Sanderson, were present in the courtroom as their attorneys laid out conflicting recollections of the incident that occurred at Park City's Deer Valley Resort.
A central question during the trial, which is expected to last eight days, will be who was uphill and who was downhill at the time of the collision, because Utah law says a downhill skier has the right of way. The jury will have to decide whether Paltrow acted negligently during the encounter.
Sanderson's lawsuit, originally filed in 2019, alleges that Paltrow slammed into him, with one witness using the term "hit and run." Paltrow, however, has contended that the retired doctor became entangled with her from behind and pulled her down into the snow with him.
In opening statements, Sanderson's attorneys cited findings from doctors who said the nature of his injuries, such as his broken ribs, point to Paltrow as the skier who initiated the collision.
"The way he sustained injuries to his ribs is more likely than not caused by Ms. Paltrow hitting him in the back," said Sanderson attorney Lawrence Buhler, according to " Inside Edition " video of the trial.
Buhler also used medical records to paint a picture of a man who has struggled with persistent health issues, including brain damage, since the incident.
"There is objective data that his ability to cope with life has diminished," Buhler said.
Paltrow, who had been skiing with her children and her then-boyfriend, recalled things differently, said her attorney, Stephen Owens. Owens said that while Paltrow skied down the beginner's slope, Sanderson bumped into her from the back at a slow speed. As their skis became entangled, the pair fell to the ground.
The two had a conversation, during which Sanderson apologized, and Paltrow skied on, Owens said.
"It's not a hit and run," Owens said.
Owens also referred to medical records. He claimed they show that Sanderson had normal or even above-average cognitive functions about one year after the crash. Owens chalked up lingering issues to "normal aging and preexisting problems coming forward and progressing."
The first witness to take the stand was Greg Ramone, a Salt Lake City resident who was skiing with Sanderson during the crash.
"I heard this scream and then I see this skier just slam into the back of Terry, and she slammed him very hard," Ramone testified, referring to the skier who he would later learn was Paltrow. "She hits him right directly in the back. He falls face down, so he's kinda spread-eagle ... and Gwyneth's on the top of him ... and then Gwyneth hits him and then bounces off of and slides to the right about five to 10 feet."
He said Sanderson lay in the snow unconscious for a couple minutes and then awoke but was disoriented. Ramone added that Paltrow eventually "bolted away" from the scene of the crash.
Although Ramone was present in the moments immediately after the crash, he acknowledged to Paltrow's attorney during cross-examination that he did not witness the actual direction both skiers were traveling in before colliding and could not say who was uphill.
Buhler took his time grilling Ramone about statements he gave in an earlier deposition, zooming in whenever the witness had a hard time recollecting certain details about the incident.
Earlier, Buhler had introduced as evidence a report from a ski resort employee, Eric Christiansen, in which he wrote that Paltrow had never seen Sanderson because he was behind her when the crash happened.
Sanderson's attorneys also called the retired doctor's former partner, Teresa Davidson. She described a noticeable drop-off in mood and activity level in the six months after the crash.
"Terry was a joyful person, and his joy was gone," she said.
The plaintiff's team also plans to call medical experts to testify throughout the trial to speak more on Sanderson's allegedly degraded health.
Taking the witness stand for Paltrow will be members of her family, including her teenage son, Noah, as well as Deer Valley Resort ski instructors who were giving lessons to Paltrow and her family.
Sanderson originally sought $3.1 million in damages, but his attorneys said in court Tuesday that they are seeking only around $300,000 in the amended claim being tried.
A month after Sanderson filed his claim, the Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love” actor filed a countersuit, doubling down on her version of events and seeking “symbolic damages” of $1, plus legal fees. Any other amount granted would be donated to charity, the countersuit said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times .
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