An eyewitness testified Tuesday that actor Gwyneth Paltrow crashed into another skier in a 2016 accident at Utah’s Deer Valley Resort, injuring him, a sequence of events Paltrow’s lawyer disputed.
Paltrow was in court for the first day of trial in Summit County, Utah, where she is accused of causing Terry Sanderson “to suffer a concussion, brain injury and four broken ribs,” according to an initial lawsuit filing.
Paltrow denies being at fault in the Feb. 26, 2016, accident and said Sanderson was exploiting her wealth and celebrity.
Sanderson is seeking $300,000, amended down from a prior request for $3.1 million. Paltrow is countersuing Sanderson for $1.
Paltrow and Sanderson both dispute who hit whom and who was further up the hill at the time of the crash. Deer Valley’s website states that the person ahead or downhill has the right-of-way.
Sanderson’s attorney, Lawrence Buhler, alleged in his opening statement that Paltrow was not looking in front of her while skiing downhill and instead was looking at her children who were there with instructors.
Buhler said the sole eyewitness to the crash, Craig Ramon, was in a group that went skiing with Sanderson and roughly 35 feet uphill at the time.
After the crash, Sanderson was not responsive and Paltrow was able to get back up, Buhler said. One of the two instructors in Paltrow’s party skied to them, along with Ramon, but allegedly left before Sanderson received medical aid.
Ramon, who described himself as Sanderson’s acquaintance, corroborated the allegations against Paltrow in his own testimony.
“We were skiing down the run and I heard this, this scream and I looked over and about one or two seconds … I hear this scream and I see this skier slam into the back of Terry,” Ramon said Tuesday.
Paltrow hit Sanderson “hard” and bounced off of him, landing a few feet downhill to Sanderson’s right, Ramon said. Once Ramon reached them, Paltrow got up but did not answer whether she was OK, he said.
An instructor then approached the group and was “very hostile” to Sanderson, who was still facedown in the snow, Ramon said.
“He starts yelling at Terry, ‘what did you do?’… and Terry’s not moving, he’s face down and he keeps saying, ‘what did you do,’” Ramon said.
Paltrow left the scene about three to four minutes after the crash, Ramon said, without identifying herself or asking whether anyone needed help.
During this time, Ramon said Sanderson was “out of it” and complained about his ribs.
The instructor stayed a few moments longer, according to Ramon, “yanked” Sanderson back up to his feet without checking for back or neck injuries, and left shortly after.
Ramon eventually flagged a member of the resort’s ski patrol, and staff took Sanderson to a first aid station on a sled, he said.
Stephen Owens, Paltrow’s attorney, disputed the account in his opening statement. He alleged that Sanderson was the one who caused the accident because he was moving to avoid another skier and interlocked his skis with Paltrow’s when he crashed into her from behind.
Sanderson allegedly apologized to Paltrow at the time and said to others that he wasn’t sure what happened, Owens told the jury. He said Paltrow stayed until a ski patrol from the resort came by and Sanderson said he was OK.
Owens also alleged that Sanderson, now 76, had ailing health prior to the accident, including partial blindness and dementia.
On cross examination, Ramon clarified a prior statement, that the instructor told him Gwyneth Paltrow took out his “buddy.”
“I get dyslexic when I get nervous,” Ramon said. “No, he said your buddy just took out Gwyneth.”
Owens asked Ramon why he didn’t correct the instructor’s assumption that Sanderson knocked into Paltrow.
“He was yelling and I didn’t want to get into an argument with him,” Ramon said.
Paltrow’s attorney also pressed Ramon on the timeline and alleged discrepancies between his prior statements and Tuesday’s testimony.
On Tuesday, Owens read a portion of the deposition where Ramon answered that Sanderson said he was “OK,” but Ramon said Owens was taking it out of context.
“I don’t think I understood your question, because he was never OK,” Ramon said. “He could hardly stand.”
Ramon agreed during cross examination that he was not solely focused on Sanderson while he was skiing before the crash, but he denied seeing a ski patrol member at the site of the collision.
“Do you acknowledge that you don’t have a perfect memory and that some things may have been said that you don’t remember?” Owens asked.
“I pretty much remember,” Ramon said.
“True or false: I have a perfect memory,” Owens asked Ramon, who answered, “false.”
The trial is expected to last eight days, include testimony from medical professionals and Paltrow’s children.
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