A lawyer for the retired optometrist suing Gwyneth Paltrow for a 2016 skiing accident raised the specter of a conspiracy to shield the actress from liability in a Utah courtroom on Tuesday morning.
Terry Sanderson claims Paltrow’s negligence was to blame. Paltrow insists it was Sanderson’s fault.
Deer Valley Resort ski instructor Eric Christiansen, who was named in the original lawsuit, along with the Deer Valley Resort Company, testified as a defense witness. He blames the crash on Sanderson’s poor skiing that day – and he wrote an initial report for his employer also blaming the former eye doctor.
On the day of the accident, Christiansen was not Paltrow’s ski instructor but was instead responsible for guiding his son, Moses Martin, on the slopes. The instructor certainly did not witness the accident either.
Steve Graff, the Deer Valley Ski Patrol manager at the time of the crash, spoke on Tuesday and left after an intense round of questioning from the plaintiff’s attorney, Robert Sykes.
The witness and attorney argued over various versions of the incident report filed by Christiansen in the hours following the incident.
“You notice here, ‘student name’, that’s been erased,” Sykes said. “But on the one we have, is Gwyneth Paltrow’s name on it, isn’t it?”
Graff replied, “I don’t know which one you have.”
The attorney sought to repeat, “Well, the one I have is erased, but the defense has its name in there.”
“I see this one that’s bleached,” the witness said.
“That was a lie, wasn’t it?” Sykes asked, concentrating. “The student’s name wasn’t Gwyneth Paltrow, was it?”
The ski patrol director at the time said he was unsure of the identity of Christiansen’s student that day.
“Well, Eric Christiansen’s student was Moses Martin,” Sykes said. “So if it says ‘student name: Gwyneth Paltrow’, that’s incorrect, isn’t it?”
The witness ultimately agreed that Paltrow was not Christiansen’s student at the time of the crash, as the report states.
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Sykes and Graff argued for some time over whether or not the report blamed Sanderson for the accident and other actions taken after the accident. The witness was repeatedly asked if various details bothered him and he repeatedly replied no.
“Has nothing bothered you so far?” Sykes asked, poking the witness. “Daily Life in Deer Valley?”
Again, the former tracker replied that he was not bothered.
“Did it bother you that Eric Christiansen, after this crash, went to lunch with one of the most famous actresses in the world and her family? Sykes asked. “Did it bother you at all?”
Graff said he thought it was “standard practice” for ski instructors.
“Did it bother you that about three hours after lunch he then writes this report?” Sykes asked.
“No,” Graff said. “That’s typical of what’s going on.”
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“Has it ever occurred to you that this instructor might cover up misconduct on his own in order to protect Miss Paltrow, a big spender in Deer Valley?” asked the lawyer.
Graff again replied in the negative.
“Didn’t you basically wink at this misbehavior?” Sykes asked, “Isn’t that what you did here today?”
Graff asked the attorney to define what “wink and nod” means before saying he had done no such thing.
Sykes asked the witness why Christiansen had not been fired for filing a false report. The witness said he saw nothing false in the incident report of his employee at the time.
“And there was no cover-up by Deer Valley, was there?” counsel for the plaintiff asked his last question.
“Absolutely not,” said the witness.
As Sykes finished with the witness and sat down, the courtroom camera briefly turned to the actress, who visibly reacted to the line of questioning with a shocked look on her face.
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