Gwyneth Paltrow at the ongoing trial
Gwyneth Paltrow at the ongoing trial Image Credit: AFP

The Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, facing a lawsuit from a retired optometrist who says she skied into him on a beginner’s slope in Utah seven years ago, testified on Friday that he actually hit her in a bizarre incident that left her confused, then angry.

“Mr. Sanderson skied directly into my back,” the founder of the lifestyle and wellness brand Goop said shortly after attorneys for the plaintiff, Terry Sanderson, called her to the stand. “I froze and got very upset a couple seconds later,” she added. “There was a sort of groan coming out of his mouth.”

Sanderson, 76, claims Paltrow, 50, hit him from behind on Feb. 26, 2016, while he was skiing down the beginner’s slope at the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, leaving him with fractured ribs and sustained brain damage. Sanderson initially sued the actress for $3 million in 2019, but dropped the claim to “more than $300,000” after a judge tossed his initial claim, according to the Associated Press. Paltrow has filed a symbolic counterclaim, seeking $1 and money to cover attorney fees.

Gwyneth Paltrow trial
Sanderson and his attorneys who claim Paltrow crashed into him while skiing Image Credit: AFP

Paltrow has provided a contradictory version of the collision, claiming she was further down the slope when Sanderson ran into her, and thus had the right of way according to Utah’s ski laws. A jury is expected to decide whether she was at fault when the trial concludes next week.

Earlier in the week, one of Sanderson’s attorneys, Lawrence Buhler, said Paltrow had turned around “to look at her children” when she screamed and crashed into Sanderson. The retiree wound up “facedown in the snow, unconscious,” according to Buhler, who said Paltrow quickly skied away. Sanderson received medical attention for a concussion and broken ribs.

Paltrow gave a very different account of the collision on Friday. She said she was skiing down the hill when Sanderson smacked into her from behind.

“I was confused at first and didn’t know exactly what was happening,” Paltrow testified, recalling the moment Sanderson’s skis appeared between her own and she felt a body pressing into her. “I thought, ‘Is this a practical joke? Is someone doing something perverted? This is really, really strange.’ My mind was going very, very quickly, and I was trying to ascertain what was happening.”

Seconds later, she testified, the pair both toppled to the ground, their skis entangled.

“I remember pushing away because I was very upset,” Paltrow said. “I pushed down the hill and I turned around and yelled at him . . . I said, ‘You skied directly into my [expletive] back,’ and he said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’” She apologised to the lawyer for her “bad language.”

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A lawyer at one point suggested that Sanderson, who is expected to testify later in the trial, be brought out so he and Paltrow could re-enact the scene. The judge sustained an objection.

The case has garnered national attention, with online critics opining on Paltrow’s attire and the opposing lawyer bantering with the celebrity on the stand.

“May I ask how tall you are?” Sanderson’s lawyer, Kristin VanOrman, asked Paltrow.

“I’m just under 5’10,” the actress responded.

“I am so jealous . . . I have to wear four inch heels just to make it to 5’5,” Van Orman responded.

“Oh they are very nice,” Paltrow said.

Paltrow was sans glasses, except for asking for reading glasses to read a document, and wore a minimal navy button-down maxi dress.

Following the collision, Paltrow said she skied down and met her kids, her husband, Brad Falchuk, and his two kids for lunch. She said her right knee felt overstretched and that she experienced back pain. She went to get a massage later in the day but did not seek medical attention.

Earlier, Buhler said Paltrow’s “neglect, her choices and her disregard for other people on the mountain” all contributed to the life-changing brain injury Sanderson sustained.

“Before this crash, Terry was an outgoing, charming, gregarious person,” the attorney said. “But after the crash, he’s no longer charming.”

Paltrow’s lawyers have argued that any decline in Sanderson’s health is unrelated to the crash. They also contend that, far from being knocked unconscious, Sanderson apologised to Paltrow after she told him he hit her, assured members of her party that he was okay and even waved away a ski patrol that stopped to check on him before later requesting help.

Before Paltrow took the stand, her attorney Stephen Owens suggested that Sanderson had exhibited aggressive behavior before the accident. While cross-examining Sanderson’s daughter, Shae Hareth, Owen pointed out inconsistencies between her deposition and her testimony on Friday, claiming that she had previously expressed surprise at her father seeking a sum as high as $3 million in his legal action against Paltrow.

The actress’s husband and children are expected to testify next week, as is Sanderson.

Paltrow, the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and producer-director Bruce Paltrow, rose to fame in the 1990s with films such as “Sliding Doors” and “Shakespeare in Love.” She won an Academy Award in 1999 for the latter role, and landed an Emmy more than a decade later for guest-starring in the television series “Glee.” These days, she is known for her oft-mocked wellness company, Goop.