Gwyneth Paltrow took the stand Friday in a Park City, Utah, courtroom in her ski crash trial.
The 50-year-old Academy Award-winning actress and founder of wellness brand Goop — who’s being sued by retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, 77, over their 2016 collision on a Deer Valley ski slope — repeated that Sanderson was the one who slammed into her.
“Well, I was confused at first, and I didn’t know exactly what was happening,” Paltrow, who was dressed in a dark top and skirt for her court appearance, said of the time immediately after the crash. “It’s a very strange thing to happen on a ski slope. And I froze, and I would say I got very upset a couple seconds later.”
She was asked about something she said in her deposition, that she hadn’t known if the incident was “an intentional assault of a sexual nature.”
“So that was a quick thought that went through my head when I was trying to reconcile what was happening,” Paltrow answered. “I was skiing and two skis came between my skis, forcing my legs apart, and then there was a body pressing against me. And there was a very strange grunting noise, so my brain was trying to make sense of what was happening. I thought, ‘Is this a practical joke? Is someone, like, doing something perverted? This is really, really strange. My mind was going very, very quickly, and I was trying to ascertain what was happening.”
She confirmed that she had yelled at Sanderson, but said she had later apologized to him for her language.
“I said, ‘You skied directly into my f***ing back,’ and he said, ‘Oh, sorry, sorry, I’m sorry,'” Paltrow said. “I was pretty upset.”
The trial, which began Tuesday and is being presided over by Judge Kent R. Holmberg, is being live streamed.
Paltrow was skiing with her family at the upscale ski resort on Feb. 26, 2016. She and Sanderson collided on a beginner slope — and are at odds over who was at fault. Sanderson sustained four broken ribs and a concussion after he claimed he was hit from behind by Paltrow and fell face first to the ground. He said he’s suffered lingering health issues, including brain injury symptoms. The Shakespeare in Love star, who has countersued, said that Sanderson crashed into her from behind. She was shaken up and left the slopes. She was in discomfort after as an old knee injury was exacerbated by the collision, her attorney said in opening statements.
Sanderson filed this lawsuit against Paltrow in 2019 originally seeking $3 million, but it’s been reduced to $300,000. She’s countersuing seeking “symbolic damages” of $1, plus legal fees.
The trial had a very celebrity moment when Sanderson’s lawyer pressed Paltrow on whether she was seeking $1 because Taylor Swift had once done so. This was an issue because the lawyer claimed Paltrow’s answer on this point had changed over time.
“Are you good friends with Taylor Swift?”
“No,” Paltrow said, before being asked the same question again. “I would not say we are good friends. We are friendly. I’ve taken my kids to one of her concerts before, but we don’t talk very often.”
Paltrow was preceded on the stand Friday by Richard Boehme, a biomedical engineer, who testified as an expert witness on Sanderson’s behalf. He evaluated Sanderson in 2021 and believed his rib injuries could only be the result of being struck from behind. Mark Stephen Herath, the brother of Sanderson’s son-in-law, also testified. They frequently skied together prior and he talked about Sanderson’s resulting memory loss, confusion and paranoia after the collision. Sanderson’s daughter Shae Sanderson Herath also testified, saying her dad’s behavior has changed since the accident, recalling an incident in which he screamed at his young granddaughter.
Paltrow’s two children Apple and Moses Martin — who were skiing with her that day along with her now-husband Brad Falchuk — are also expected to testify in the case. The actress mentioned that they would attend Monday, with Apple missing school and Moses on a break from it anyway.
At Thursday’s hearing, Paltrow reportedly wore a necklace worth $25,000 that is for sale on the Goop website, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by the internet. Also, her team tried to give the bailiffs baked goods, but were denied in an awkward moment.
— Additional reporting by Raechal Shewfelt