Gwyneth Paltrow is currently facing a civil trial in a US court over claims that she seriously injured a man in a skiing accident in Utah back in 2016.
The 50-year-old Oscar winner is being sued by retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, who claims that the actress crashed into him at a resort in Park City.
He claims she skied "out of control", causing "a brain injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries." Paltrow has counter-sued, claiming he hit her with a "full body blow".
Opening statements in the jury trial began on Tuesday, March 21, with proceedings scheduled to last for eight days. The actress-lifestyle vlogger-businesswoman and her children are expected to testify.
The trial got underway in a courtroom in Park City, Utah as lawyers traded opening statements that touched on skiing etiquette and the role that celebrity may have played. Paltrow, in cream turtleneck sweater and brown slacks, sat with her lawyers.
Mr. Sanderson, 76, is seeking damages of $300,000, after dropping a previous claim for $3.1 million.
The incident occurred in February 2016 on the beginners' slope at the Deer Valley resort where Paltrow was skiing with family.
The case appears to hinge on which skier, Ms. Paltrow or Mr. Sanderson, was uphill at the time of the accident. According to Deer Valley's safety policies, the skiers "ahead or downhill of you have the right-of-way. You must avoid them."
During opening statements, Paltrow's lawyer Steve Owens told the jury his client had just begun descending the slope when a pair of skis suddenly appeared between hers and a man collided with her back.
Paltrow's lawyer argued that Mr. Sanderson, who suffers from vision and hearing loss as a result of a previous stroke, may not have seen his client before he collided with her.
Mr. Owens said his client initially suspected she was being assaulted and was so shaken by the incident she chose not to ski for the rest of the day: "She may have sworn at him. It rattled her and it physically hurt her."
But lawyers representing Mr. Sanderson argued it was, in fact, Paltrow who had been skiing erratically that day because she was trying to watch her children go down the slopes.
Mr. Sanderson's lawyer, Lawrence Buhler, said Paltrow showed "conscious disregard for other people on the mountain" when she crashed into his client, causing severe injuries, including four broken ribs and permanent brain damage.
"Distracted skiers cause crashes. She knew that skiing that way, blindly skiing down a mountain while looking up and to the side was reckless, she knew that continuing to ski that way ... she would crash into somebody below her," Buhler said, noting that Paltrow is a seasoned skier and is well aware of the rules.
The original claim, filed in 2019, said: "This case involves a hit-and-run ski crash at Deer Valley, Utah, where defendant Gwyneth Paltrow skied out of control and hit the back of Terry Sanderson, another skier, who was downhill, knocking him down hard, knocking him out, and causing a brain injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries. Ms. Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured."
The filing also claimed that a ski instructor who had been training Paltrow, saw Mr. Sanderson injured but also made no attempt to help him.
In court on Tuesday, Paltrow's lawyers disputed this claim and argued that both a ski instructor and a ski patrol rushed to render aid after the incident.
Mr. Sanderson previously said he waited for almost three years to file the lawsuit because he could not function properly due to the concussion, and also because he had some problems with lawyers.
According to court documents, Mr. Sanderson held a news conference three years after the episode and demanded that Paltrow pay him millions of dollars. On Tuesday, Mr. Owens said that Mr. Sanderson was “aging” and “obsessed with this lawsuit,” and that medical witnesses would show that his brain damage stemmed from before the accident.
Paltrow later filed a counterclaim, alleging that Mr. Sanderson had hit her, adding that he had apologized to her and said he was fine.
Paltrow is countersuing for $1 in damages plus attorney's fees.
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