Gwyneth Paltrow's ski trial defense leans heavily on experts
Wed, Mar 29, 2023 7:17 PM
By SAM METZ, Associated Press
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Gwyneth Paltrow's attorneys came close to wrapping up their case on Wednesday by relying on more experts to mount their defense on the seventh day of trial over her 2016 ski collision with a 76-year-old retired optometrist.
Paltrow's defense team called to the stand a radiologist, a neurologist, a neuropsychologist and a forensic psychologist, leaning on medical analysis rather than the testimony of the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer's friends or husband in order to make their case. In the final hour of their last full day to call witnesses though, they called Terry Sanderson, the man suing Paltrow, back to the witness stand.
The eight-person jury is expected to get the case Thursday to deliberate after closing arguments.
More than just a display of their financial investment in the case, Paltrow's team allotting most of their time to expert testimony is a gamble. Throughout the trial, bombshell testimony from Paltrow and Sanderson has engaged the jury, while hours of jargon-dense medical testimony has tested their endurance.
Experts called by Paltrow's side testified that brain scans suggest Sanderson's cognitive abilities began to decline years before the crash with Paltrow. They challenged claims made last week by his doctors, who attributed his disorientation and memory loss to post-concussion syndrome.
“Aging can result in this,” radiologist Carl Black said, pointing to Sanderson's brain scan, which he said showed microvascular ischemic disease of white matter, “because we’re all deteriorating to some degree or other everyday we live.”
Members of the jury sat transfixed — with some on the edge of their seats — on Friday when Paltrow said on the stand that she initially thought she was being “violated” when the collision happened. Three days later Sanderson gave an entirely different account, saying she ran into him and sent him “absolutely flying.”
Time constraints have challenged both sides throughout the eight-day trial and forced difficult decisions about who to call to testify from their lengthy roster of witnesses. The judge presiding over the trial in Park City has made it clear that he wants both sides to give their closing arguments by Thursday afternoon — in order to give the jury enough time to deliberate and come to a consensus.
The trial is taking place in the city that annually hosts the Sundance Film Festival, where early in her career Paltrow would appear for the premieres of her movies, including 1998’s “Sliding Doors,” at a time when she was known primarily as an actor, not a celebrity wellness entrepreneur.
Sanderson is asking for more than $300,000, saying that Paltrow's recklessness on the slope caused the crash, leaving him with four broken ribs and years of post-concussion symptoms including confusion, memory loss and irritability. Paltrow has countersued for a symbolic $1 and attorney fees, alleging that Sanderson veered into her from behind.
The amount of money at stake for both sides pales in comparison to the typical legal costs of a multiyear lawsuit, private security detail and expert witness-heavy trial.
The second week of trial has made clear that attorneys have spared little expense on making their case.
Sanderson’s attorney told the jury last week that, for him, the trial was about “value, not cost.”
To accompany their expert witnesses — many who have testified to being paid more than $10,000 — Paltrow's defense team has played multiple high-resolution animations depicting their side's version of the events that took place in February 2016 on a beginner run at Utah's Deer Valley Resort.
Late on Wednesday afternoon, Paltrow's attorneys called Sanderson back to the stand to cast doubt on his claims of life-altering injuries. Instead of revisiting his medical history or expert testimonies, they asked questions about Sanderson's luxury and adventure travel after the crash.
They introduced photos into evidence of Sanderson riding a camel in Morocco, trekking up to Machu Picchu in Peru, and taking a continent-wide loop around Europe with stops in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and Belgium.