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Gwyneth Paltrow not at fault in ski crash trial, jury decides

A retired optometrist sued Paltrow, alleging her reckless skiing left him with lasting brain trauma that has negatively affected his life. 

A jury sided with actor Gwyneth Paltrow on Thursday, deciding she was not at fault for a 2016 ski accident with a retired Utah optometrist who sustained broken ribs and a concussion after the fall. 

Terry Sanderson filed a $300,000 lawsuit against Paltrow, alleging that reckless skiing caused her to run into him from behind on Feb. 26, 2016, at Utah’s Deer Valley Resort. The collision left Sanderson with four broken ribs, a concussion and lasting brain damage that affected his daily life and personal relationships, he said. 

The jury, which began deliberations earlier in the afternoon, agreed that Sanderson was, in fact, at fault, not Paltrow.

Paltrow countersued for $1, as well as her legal fees, insisting that she did not run into Sanderson. 

"I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity," Paltrow said in a statement after the verdict. "I am pleased with the outcome, and I appreciate all of the hard work of Judge Holmberg and the jury, and thank them for their thoughtfulness in handling this case.”

Paltrow told the court that it was Sanderson who was at fault for the collision. She testified that she initially believed she was being assaulted when a man came up behind her, put his skis between hers and groaned. 

“Mr. Sanderson categorically hit me on the ski slope, and that is the truth,” Paltrow testified. 

She also disputed the account of Sanderson’s witness Craig Ramon, who was with a meetup group Sanderson had organized to ski that day. Ramon is the only person who described having witnessed the accident, testifying that he was about 35 feet behind Paltrow and Sanderson. 

Ramon told the court he heard a scream and then a few seconds later saw Paltrow slam into Sanderson from behind. He said Sanderson was briefly unconscious and facedown in the snow. Ramon testified that Paltrow left after about four minutes without identifying herself or waiting to see whether Sanderson was all right. 

Paltrow denied Ramon’s allegations, calling his reliability into question. 

“He said he was 40 feet away and colorblind,” Paltrow said. “I don’t know how he can be positive about what he saw, especially with how much he changed his story.” 

Paltrow also denied leaving the accident before Sanderson informed the group that he was fine and said the instructor handled the situation on her behalf. The instructor filed a report and shared her information after the report, she said. 

The instructor’s report from that day said a male skier hit Paltrow.

After the accident, Paltrow had lunch with her two children and the man who is now her husband before she bowed out of the rest of the ski day because of a sore knee. Her children, Apple and Moses Martin, testified that their mother was shaken and had told them Sanderson ran into her. 

Apple Martin, 18, who was 12 at the time, testified that although she didn’t see the accident, she recalled her mother’s being in a “state of shock” that day. 

Sanderson, 76, alleged the accident left him with a traumatic brain injury that has impaired his cognitive functions in a way that has negatively affected his day-to-day life and personal relationships. Paltrow’s attorneys attributed Sanderson’s decline to pre-existing medical conditions and aging and called medical experts to the stand to support their assertions. 

Paltrow’s attorneys also brought up previous failed relationships and a deposition from one of Sanderson’s daughters, who appears to be estranged from her father, to dispute the idea that a brain injury is the sole cause of his strained personal life.