Terry Sanderson, the retired optometrist who is suing Gwyneth Paltrow for $3million over a skiing accident in 2016, tore up on the stand and called the crash a tragedy that took away one of his passions always.
“I feel like I’m living another life now,” Sanderson told jurors in Third District court Monday in Park City, Utah. “I’m not taking any risks.”
Describing himself as an “advanced intermediate” skier who had, until the accident, spent most of his life skiing, Sanderson and his attorney, Kristin Van Orman, sought to poke holes in the week’s testimony last in the courtroom by the Oscar-winning actress.
The plaintiff shared his recollection of the incident as his lawyer tried to keep his promise to meet a tight schedule on Monday.
“Everything was great, then I heard something I had never heard at a ski resort,” Sanderson said. “And it was a bloodcurdling scream.”
“I can’t do it,” Sanderson continued, trying to mimic the alleged scream.
“And then – boom,” he continued, motioning with his hands for a single loud thump. “And it felt like someone was out of control and was going to hit a tree and was going to die. And that’s what I had until I got hit.
Attorney Kristin Van Orman clarified that her client meant he had this memory of the events up until impact.
“Oh my God,” he replied. “Someone is out of control, and they are seriously out of control.”
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Paltrow’s team objected as Sanderson recounted his experience of the moments before the two skiers collided. Paltrow herself sat wide-eyed and shook her head in response. Defense attorney Stephen Owens urged the court to rule on the objections as the plaintiff continued his testimony. Judge Kent Holmberg ultimately overruled these objections.
“I was hit so hard in the back and right in the shoulder blades,” Sanderson continued. “And it felt like – was perfectly centered. And his fist and the sticks were right there, at the bottom of my shoulder blades. Serious, serious blow. Never been hit this hard. And I’m flying. I’m absolutely flying.
The plaintiff’s lawyer asked him to clarify that he had not been “up in the air” by the accident.
“All I saw was a lot of snow,” Sanderson replied. “And I didn’t see the sky, but I was flying this way.”
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Prior to the disputed accident, Sanderson said he had never been involved in another skiing accident in some 37 years on the slopes. Van Orman spent considerable time last Friday attempting to elicit testimony from Paltrow that she was clumsy and “accident-prone,” despite sustained objections from attorneys for the defendant.
The defending actress also described the plaintiff as “fat” and Sanderson testified that he was 5’5″ and 163 pounds. During cross-examination, however, Paltrow’s lead attorney, Steve Owens, recalled to the plaintiff that in his 2020 deposition, he recalled that at the time of the accident he was 5’8 tall and weighed over 180 pounds.
The plaintiff also sought to challenge another of Paltrow’s main defenses – that he was the one who immediately apologized after the accident.
As he struggled to come to his senses and reorient himself, Sanderson said he heard a man yell at him and intimidate him, insisting he had hurt someone and violated the track rules.
That person, according to the plaintiff, was Deer Valley Resort ski instructor Eric Christiansen, who was named in the original lawsuit, along with the Deer Valley Resort Company. Judge Holmberg then struck down the other two defendants, leaving only Paltrow to defend the case in court.
“I remember saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,'” Sanderson said Monday, in a whisper. “There was nothing coming out of my mouth.”
“You were apologizing for causing the accident?” Van Orman asked.
“No, absolutely not,” he replied. “I was trying to appease this man the only defensive way I could.”
Later, Sanderson addressed the infamous email he sent to his three daughters within hours of the crash with the subject line, “I’m famous.”
More Law&Crime coverage: Gwyneth Paltrow’s lawyer tears up plaintiff in ski accident trial – references old age and email saying ‘I’m famous…’
The plaintiff said he was ‘not into the celebrity cult’ and didn’t think it was ‘cool’ that he was involved in an accident with Paltrow – but admitted the e- mail himself had taken the wrong tone.
“I was really trying to add some levity to a situation and it backfired on us,” Sanderson said.
At the end of the examination-in-chief, Van Orman asked his client if he was the one responsible for the accident.
Sanderson swore to God and his “other dad in heaven” that he didn’t. Owens asked the court to waive the religious oath and the court obliged, telling the jurors to disregard it.
“My dad would say, if you have the truth, you bring the truth, don’t let anyone hold you back,” the plaintiff said, explaining why he, years later, filed a lawsuit against the actress.
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