In a decision reached on Thursday, March 30, a jury found that actress and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow was not at fault in regard to a 2016 skiing accident in which a man sustained broken ribs and a concussion.
The trial commenced due to a $300,000—initially $3 million—lawsuit filed by retired optometrist Terry Sanderson in 2019, claiming that Paltrow engaged in reckless skiing that caused her to run into him from behind three years earlier back in Feb. 2016 at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. Paltrow countersued for only $1—a point heavily exacerbated by her lawyer Stephen Owens—and her legal fees with the insistence that she did not cause the collision and even accused Sanderson of exploiting her fame for easy money.
Sanderson suffered from four broken ribs in addition to a concussion that he claims caused him lasting brain damage that affects his daily life and relationships. Despite this, however, the jury decided that Sanderson, not Paltrow, was at fault for the accident.
To support her case, Paltrow told the jury and the court that she initially believed that Sanderson was assaulting her, as she remembers a man coming up behind her, putting his skis between hers, and groaning. She persisted with this account even against that of Sanderson’s witness, who was the only person who actually saw the accident happen at a distance of 35 feet behind the two.
Craig Ramon, Sanderson’s witness, claims that he heard a scream and then saw Paltrow run into Sanderson from behind. Ramon continued to explain that Sanderson was face down in the snow and briefly unconscious and, after only about four minutes, Paltrow left having failed to give her name or check on Sanderson’s wellbeing.
Paltrow denied this play of events, saying that his story kept changing and that it was outright inaccurate. She argued that she stayed until Sanderson confirmed he was alright, and that the instructor—whose report says a male skier hit Paltrow—handled the situation on her behalf. Paltrow’s children also recall their mother being shaken up the rest of the day and with a sore knee, and that she told them that Sanderson had run into her.
Additionally, the claims that Sanderson’s head injury left him with lasting brain damage were refuted by Paltrow’s attorneys who brought up his previous failed relationships as well as estrangement from one of his daughters to prove that a brain injury isn’t the sole cause of daily life struggles. The attorneys also cited Sanderson’s pre-existing medical conditions and aging, with the help of medical experts, to support these claims.
The trial, which has garnered much social media attention, especially with Paltrow’s whispering of, “I wish you well,” to Sanderson on the way out of the courtroom for the final time, presented itself as a joke in many ways and as a serious trial in others.
Dubbed “Gwynnocent” by many media outlets, Paltrow proved that her integrity mattered more than complying with a false claim. Sanderson, when asked about the verdict, however, said that he believes people are more likely to believe celebrities. Regardless, this trial serves as one of the many held against notable figures and will certainly not be the last.