Actress Gwyneth Paltrow cleared of wrongdoing in ski-crash trial
PARK CITY, Utah — Gwyneth Paltrow won her court battle over a 2016 ski collision at a posh Utah ski resort after a jury decided Thursday that the movie star wasn’t at fault for the crash.
A jury dismissed the complaint of a retired optometrist who sued Paltrow over injuries he sustained when the two crashed on a beginner run at Deer Valley ski resort, siding with Paltrow after eight days of live-streamed courtroom testimony that made the case a pop culture fixation.
Paltrow, an actor who in recent years has refashioned herself into a celebrity wellness entrepreneur, Paltrow looked to her attorneys 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.
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 attorneys described the complaint against her as “utter B.S.” 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 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 attorneys 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 scrutinized both Paltrow and Sanderson’s motives while attorneys directed questions to witnesses that often had less to do with the collision and more to do with their client’s reputations.
The trial took place in Park City, a resort town known for hosting the annual Sundance Film Festival, where early in her career Paltrow would appear for the premieres of her movies including 1998’s “Sliding Doors,” at a time when she was known primarily as an actor, not a lifestyle influencer. Paltrow is also known for her roles in “Shakespeare in Love” and the “Iron Man” movies.
The jury’s decision marks a painful court defeat for Terry Sanderson, the man who sued Paltrow for more than $300,000 over injuries he sustained when they crashed on a beginner run. 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.
He filed an amended complaint after an earlier $3.1 million lawsuit was dismissed. Paltrow in response countersued for $1 and attorney fees, a symbolic action that mirrors Taylor Swift’s response to a radio host’s defamation lawsuit. Swift was awarded $1 in 2017.
Paltrow’s defense team tried to paint Sanderson as an angry, aging and unsympathetic man who had over the years become “obsessed” with his lawsuit against Paltrow. They argued that Paltrow wasn’t at fault in the crash and also said, regardless of blame, that Sanderson was overstating the extent of his injuries.
• AP writer Anna Furman contributed from Los Angeles.
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