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Gwyneth Paltrow ski crash trial: Summary and timeline

The trial ended Thursday with a jury finding that Terry Sanderson was "100% at fault" for the 2016 collision.
Gwyneth Paltrow
Actor Gwyneth Paltrow in the courtroom on March 21 in Park City, Utah.Rick Bowmer / AP

Gwyneth Paltrow's ski crash trial came to an end Thursday when a jury sided with the actor, saying she was not at fault for a 2016 collision at Utah’s Deer Valley Resort that injured a retired optometrist.

Terry Sanderson sued Paltrow for $300,000, alleging that reckless skiing caused her to run into him from behind on Feb. 26, 2016. Sanderson said he suffered four broken ribs, a concussion and lasting brain damage that affected his daily life and personal relationships.

Paltrow, who has repeatedly denied running into Sanderson, countersued for $1 and her legal fees.

The trial went on for more than a week. The jury deliberated for just a few hours before deciding that Sanderson, not Paltrow, was at fault.

Here’s a timeline of the events that led up to the court case, and memorable moments from trial.

January 2019

Sanderson filed a lawsuit on Jan. 29, 2019, saying that Paltrow was skiing "out of control" when she hit him from behind, knocked him down, and then landed on top of him. He said after the collision, the actor got up and skied away and did not offer any help.

He was initially seeking more than $3.1 million but amended it to $300,000.

Sanderson said it took him three years to file the suit because his legal team could not come to a resolution after meeting with Paltrow and her attorney.

February 2019

Paltrow responded to Sanderson's claims in a court filing, saying that he was responsible for the collision and was trying to exploit her celebrity and wealth.

The actor said she was on a family vacation with her children and friends and was on a beginner run named "Bandana" at the ski resort when Sanderson smashed into her from behind and delivered a full "body blow." Sanderson apologized to her and he was fine, according to Paltrow's filing.

Image: Steve Owens
Attorney Steve Owens takes the court through his closing argument Thursday. Rick Bowmer / Pool via AP

She said she was so shaken by what happened that she stopped skiing for the day.

Both Sanderson's lawsuit and Paltrow's filing cite an incident report filed by a Deer Valley ski instructor who was skiing with Paltrow's son. The instructor said Sanderson was the uphill skier and hit Paltrow from behind, according to his report. Deer Valley’s website says the person ahead or downhill has the right of way.

He said Paltrow had been making short turns as she skied behind her children. The instructor, however, said in his report that he did not witness the collision and only heard Paltrow scream and hit the ground.

March 2023 - opening statements

On March 21, the trial kicked off with Sanderson's attorney, Lawrence Buhler, saying in his opening statement that Paltrow was not looking in front of her as she was skiing downhill and instead was looking at her children. He said the sole eyewitness to the crash was Craig Ramon, an acquaintance of Sanderson's.

Ramon, who was in a group with Sanderson, testified that he was "skiing down the run" when he heard a scream and looked over and saw "this skier slam into the back of Terry." He said Paltrow hit Sanderson "hard" and bounced off him. Ramon said once he reached them, Paltrow got up and did not answer whether she was OK.

He also testified that an instructor approached the group and yelled at Sanderson, who Ramon said was facedown in the snow. Paltrow left the scene about three to four minutes after the crash without identifying herself or asking if anyone needed help, Ramon said.

Sanderson, according to Ramon's testimony, was "out of it" and complained about his ribs. The instructor "yanked" Sanderson off the ground and then left, he said.

Paltrow's attorney, Stephen Owens, disputed the claims and said in his opening statement that Sanderson caused the collision when he moved to avoid another skier and interlocked his skis with Paltrow's.

Owens said that after the collision Sanderson apologized to Paltrow and told others that he wasn't sure what happened. Paltrow stayed at the scene until a ski patrol came and asked Sanderson if he was OK, Owens told the court.

It was also alleged that Sanderson, now 76, had ailing health before the accident, including dementia and partial blindness.

Gwyneth Paltrow in the courtroom in Park City, Utah, on March 21, 2023.
Gwyneth Paltrow in the courtroom on March 21.Rick Bowmer / AP Pool

Paltrow takes the stand

The actor told jurors that Sanderson "categorically" hit her on the slope, declaring "that is the truth."

She said she was "gently" skiing down the slope when she felt a body press into her back and saw two skis slide between hers. She said they both fell to the ground and she momentarily froze before becoming upset and yelling an expletive at Sanderson.

Paltrow told the court that she apologized for the outburst, saying that she felt violated and initially believed the collision might have been a sexual assault.

"There was a body pressing against me and a very strange grunting noise," she testified.

After the crash, she said she remained at the scene until a ski instructor who had been working with her children told her she could leave.

Sanderson says he was sent 'absolutely flying' down the slope

Sanderson's version of events differed greatly from Paltrow's. He told the jury that the collision was "a serious smack" and all he saw was "a whole lot of snow."

He recounted how a screaming woman was skiing out of control and hit him square in the back. At times, Sanderson became emotional during his testimony when it appeared he could not remember things or focus.

His legal team said he was having trouble focusing because of brain damage he suffered from the collision. Paltrow's team used it to weaken his credibility.

Sanderson's testimony also raised questions about a possible GoPro helmet camera that may have documented the crash. Sanderson's daughter mentioned the GoPro in an email, but she said she was just speculating because helmet cameras are common at ski resorts.

It's not clear if the footage exists and it was not included as evidence.

Viral trial moments

In between testimonies about what went down on the slope, there were a few interesting moments from the trial that set social media ablaze.

During Paltrow's testimony, she was asked whether Sanderson prevented her and her family from enjoying a "very expensive vacation."

"Well, I lost half a day of skiing. Yes," Paltrow said.

The clip went viral, garnering a ton of reactions from social media users including Busy Philipps, who posted an Instagram photo of herself and actress Jen Tullock with the caption: "Well, we lost a half day of skiing."

Another moment that went viral was when one of Sanderson's attorneys questioned the actor about her height.

"May I ask how tall you are?" Kristin VanOrman asked.

"I'm just under 5'10," Paltrow answered.

"Ok. I am so jealous," VanOrman quipped, to which Paltrow responded: "I think I'm shrinking though."

"You and me both," VanOrman said. "I have to wear 4-inch heels just to make it to 5’5."

In other odd exchanges between Paltrow and VanOrman, the actor had to deny that she was good friends with Taylor Swift and was quizzed on whether she is a good tipper.

Jury makes a decision, agrees with Paltrow

The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon and after a little more than two hours concluded that Sanderson was "100% at fault" for the 2016 crash.

The actor said in a statement following the verdict that she was "pleased with the outcome." As she left the courtroom, Paltrow bent over and whispered to Sanderson, "I wish you well."

Sanderson told reporters that he thought it was "very kind of her."