After two weeks of intense — and sometimes bizarre — testimony, it is up to the jury in Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski trial to determine whether she or a retired optometrist were at fault for a 2016 ski crash.
The group of eight Utah residents must now decide whether the Oscar-winning actress crashed into a 76-year-old retired optometrist, or whether he slammed into her when skiing down the Bandana Run at the Deer Valley Resort.
They must also determine whether Terry Sanderson suffered from a debilitating brain injury as a result of the crash, even if he was showing signs of brain damage prior to the February 2016 crash.
And they must determine whether the 50-year-old actress and entrepreneur is more trustworthy than the retired optometrist and father-of-three.
Once those issues are resolved, the jury must decide how much — if any — of the $300,000 Sanderson is suing the actress for, he will be awarded.
Jurors are set to decide who is at fault for the 2016 ski crash – actress Gwyneth Paltrow, or the retired doctor who is suing her for $300,000, Terry Sanderson
Which skier had the right-of-way?
One of the most contentious questions facing the jury is whether Gwyneth Paltrow slammed into Terry Sanderson from behind, or if he crashed into her and caused them both to rotate and fall over.
Jurors heard from witnesses and experts on both sides and were even shown an animation showing how the crash could have occurred from Paltrow’s point-of-view.
Sanderson has claimed he chose to ski down the right side of Bandana Run on that fateful day to avoid the crowded areas in the middle and because he suffered from a lack of sight in his right eye.
As he was skiing, he said, ‘I got hit in my back so hard, it felt like it was perfectly centered. Serious, serious smack. And I’m flying. I’m absolutely flying. All I saw was a whole lot of snow.’
When he landed, Sanderson said everything went black.
‘I wouldn’t know if the person who struck me landed on my back,’ he said. ‘The first thing I remember is everything is black like I was unconscious.’
He said he tried to move ‘but nothing was responding, not my head, not my body.’ But when he came to, he said, he heard his colleague Craig Ramone asking if he was OK and looked up to see a resort employee.
At the time, he said, his vision was ‘swimming with sparks’ and his ‘ears were buzzing.’
He also said he was totally disoriented, and as he got up and attempted to ski down the hill before being stopped because he was not capable.
Sanderson also said he had no idea who had hit him until later that day when he was told by Ramon that the collision was with Paltrow, despite emailing his daughters afterwards that ‘I’m famous.’
His testimony was supported by Ramone, who testified: ‘We were skiing down the run, and I heard this scream. I just see this skier slam right into the back of Terry.
‘He falls face down and Gwyneth [was] on top of him. His face was stuck in the snow.’
But Sanderson’s testimony was undermined on Thursday that Dr. Richard Boehme, a neurologist, acknowledged that Sanderson could not have flown into the air as he claimed.
Paltrow testified in court that Sanderson approached her from behind, and their skis became intertwined
Sanderson described on the stand that Paltrow hit him in the back and sent him flying
Craig Ramone claimed he saw Paltrow slam into Sanderson in February 2016
He said Paltrow would have had to be traveling at 50 to 60mph for that to happen, according to his version of events, which he said, would be ‘unlikely.’
Paltrow, meanwhile, says Sanderson plowed into her while she was skiing down the Bandana Run at the ski resort.
‘I was skiing and two skis came between my skis, forcing my legs apart, and there was a body pressed against me and there was a very strange grunting noise,’ the actress recounted, sharing that she thought she might have been the victim of a sexual assault at the time.
‘I thought is this a practical joke? Is someone like doing something perverted? This is really, really strange,’ she said she thought at the time.
After they crashed, Paltrow said she remembered yelling at Sanderson ‘You skied into my f***ing back!’
The actress also confirmed to Sanderson’s lawyer that the pair were down on the ground together in a ‘spooning’ position.
She then went on to claim that Sanderson repeatedly said ‘I’m sorry’ as he lay on the ground.
Her position was supported by her ski instructor Eric Christiansen, who walked jurors through an animated video that was created to show his point-of-view during the crash.
And Dr. Irving Scher, a biomechanics expert, claimed that Paltrow’s version of events is the only one that follows the laws of physics.
He noted that if Sanderson’s skis became intertwined with Paltrow’s like she claimed, he could have fallen and sustained the rib and head injuries he claimed, even if Paltrow did not slip on top of him.
Animation shown in court showed Paltrow’s version of events, which experts said was consistent with physics
Was Sanderson’s cognitive decline caused by the crash?
Another issue the jury must determine is whether Sanderson’s cognitive decline was caused by the crash.
The jurors heard from a slew of experts on both sides, some of whom claimed Sanderson suffered a ‘sudden and precipitous’ change following the crash and others who said he was already suffering from cognitive decline prior to the crash.
Experts for the defense has repeatedly cited a 2009 brain scan, which they claim show Sanderson was already suffering from issues prior to the crash.
They have said the brain scan shows that he had dilated ventricles in his brain, which could have caused a stroke. They also note that Sanderson was already seeing a psychologist for depression and anxiety.
One expert, Angela Eastvold, a neuropsychologist, even testified on Wednesday that Sanderson did not report any signs of dizziness and tests proved he had no signs of ‘attention deficits’ in tests he took after the crash.
Plaintiffs pointed to brain scans from 2009 that showed Sanderson was already suffering from ‘dilated ventricles’ in his brain prior to the crash
Dr Angela Eastvold, a neuropsychologist and concussion expert who has reviewed Sanderson’s medical history, said she does not believe Sanderson suffered anything more than a mild concussion and any continuing symptoms can be explained by other conditions
But the plaintiff has hired experts saying that Sanderson’s brain function ‘deteriorated rapidly’ following the 2016 ski crash, and said he had more trouble focusing on every day tasks, like running errands at a Home Depot and even had to call police to pick him up when he was hiking because he lost his car.
They denied that Sanderson was ‘faking’ his problems or ‘making a mountain out of a molehill.’
‘Were it not for that particular accident, the life he was living in the six months to a year before… would be the life he would continue to be living,’ Dr. Sam Goldstein said.
‘These pre-existing vulnerabilities he had don’t explain the acute change and now the long-term change in his behavior and functioning – this is an acute, rapid downturn.’
‘The problems he had before – his mood, his anxiety, his personality style – are not the reasons he’s struggling today. They don’t explain the acute change in his functioning and the adverse pattern of emotions and behavior and communication he presents with in everyday life.’
The plaintiff’s lawyer also relied on family members who knew Sanderson before and after the crash, who said his relations deteriorated in the aftermath and would anger more easily.
In her testimony, Sanderson’s daughter Polly Grasham said that her father now ‘gets stuck in the minutiae.
‘I think he gets really caught up in the details,’ she said, noting that he loses the ‘primary purpose or focus’ of what he is saying.
Who is more trustworthy?
The final question jurors must answer is whether they think Paltrow or Sanderson is more trustworthy.
Sanderson has repeatedly said that Paltrow skied away following the crash and did not help him, and is arguing he brought the case against the Oscar-winner to get justice and hold her accountable for what he sees is her negligence in the crash.
But Paltrow’s attorneys have called his story ‘utter B.S.,’ saying that Sanderson does not deny that he told people on the scene that he was OK.
Paltrow’s attorney, Steve Owens, also questioned the 76-year-old’s credibility, noting his age and documented, pre-collision brain injuries.
‘His memories of the case get better over the years. That’s all I’m gonna say. That’s not how memory works,’ Owens argued.
While on vacation after the crash in 2018, Sanderson was pictured taking part in activities like skiing and cycling
Sanderson is seen here riding a camel in 2018 despite apparently suffering a brain injury
Experts, meanwhile, questioned how someone who claims they were knocked out could state how long they were out for — a direct jab at Sanderson’s assertion he had blacked out for two minutes.
And photos that the defense showed the jury proved that Sanderson took luxurious and adventurous vacations following the crash.
They introduced photos into evidence of Sanderson riding a camel in Morocco, trekking up to Machu Picchu in Peru.
While on vacation, he was also pictured taking part in activities like skiing and cycling.
He also took a continent-wide loop around Europe with stops in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and Belgium.
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