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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Gwyneth Paltrow Wins Ski Crash Case

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Gwyneth Paltrow countersued Terry Sanderson for a symbolic $1. Photo: Getty Images.

When asked if suing Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 ski crash was worth it, Terry Sanderson, a 76-year-old retired optometrist, responded, “Absolutely not.” Sanderson sued Paltrow, an actress and founder of lifestyle company Goop, for $300,000 in damages after a crash at the luxurious Deer Valley ski resort. Paltrow countersued for a symbolic $1, and after a two-week trial, jurors found Sanderson to be at fault for the crash. Sanderson will not have to pay Paltrow’s legal fees, as a result of an agreement between both parties’ attorneys. 

Sanderson had initially sued Paltrow for $3 million, before amending the amount to $300,000. He accused Paltrow of skiing recklessly before their crash, which allegedly left him with “permanent traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement.” Loss of enjoyment of life for Sanderson included his inability to enjoy wine tastings after the collision. 

The case hinged on the question of whether Sanderson or Paltrow was downhill on the slope, as downhill skiers have the right of way, and it is the responsibility of uphill skiers to avoid those skiing below them. 

The two recounted wildly different stories of the crash. According to Sanderson’s attorney, Craig Ramon, a friend of Sanderson, is the only eyewitness of the crash. Ramon testified that he was skiing when he heard a scream and saw “this skier slam into the back of Terry.” He added that Paltrow left the scene a few minutes after the crash without asking if anybody needed assistance.

Paltrow’s attorney Stephen Owens disputed this version of the story, claiming that Sanderson caused the crash when he interlocked his skis with Paltrow’s while trying to avoid another skier. Owens also noted that Paltrow asked Sanderson if he was okay and stayed on the scene until ski patrol arrived.

Paltrow then took the stand, testifying that Sanderson hit her. She recalled that, “There was a body pressing against me and a very strange grunting noise,” and that she initially thought the collision was sexual assault. 

Paltrow’s ski instructor reported that Sanderson was uphill before the collision. Paltrow’s legal team also used an email sent by Sanderson after the crash titled “I’m famous” to undermine his credibility and accuse him of attempting to take advantage of Paltrow’s wealth and celebrity. They also argued that Sanderson was experiencing some of the physical symptoms he complained of before the crash, and that some of these symptoms were consistent with his age. 

Paltrow’s celebrity status came into play, with Sanderson joking that he would no longer be able to use dating sites after the trial, referring to this as “the pain of trying to sue a celebrity.” A reporter remarked that he might be able to land himself a reality television show, to which he replied, “I don’t need that.”

Paltrow said in a statement after the verdict, “I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity. I am pleased with the outcome and I appreciate all of the hard work of Judge Holmberg and the jury, and thank them for their thoughtfulness in handling this case.”

The case garnered media attention for its comedic moments, including once when Paltrow was asked how the crash affected her, and she responded, “Well, we lost half a day of skiing.” Paltrow’s attorneys also asked if they could bring “treats” to court bailiffs to thank them for helping Paltrow avoid paparazzi. Sanderson’s attorneys objected, and the judge said, “OK, there’s an objection so thank you, but no thank you.”

The trial also went viral when one of Sanderson’s attorneys, Kristen VanOrman, asked Paltrow how tall she was. Platrow answered that she is 5’10, to which Van Orman responded, “OK. I am so jealous…I have to wear 4-inch heels just to make it to 5’5.” Van Orman also asked Paltrow if she is friends with Taylor Swift and whether or not she is a good tipper.

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Abby Kelso '24
Abby Kelso '24, Editor-in-Chief
Abby Kelso is currently Editor-in-Chief of Horizon. She served as a Culture Editor in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years. Prior to that, she worked as a Staff Writer for Horizon.
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