- By Sam Cabral
- BBC News, in Park City
Many celebrities descend on Park City once a year for the Sundance Film Festival — but last week in town was about one star and one courtroom drama in particular.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s legal team is now resting in a civil trial over a 2016 skiing accident with a retired ophthalmologist at the upscale Deer Valley resort in Utah.
Terry Sanderson, 76, is seeking $300,000 (£244,000) in compensation for physical and emotional injuries he attributes to the crash, which Paltrow says he caused. He says it left him with brain damage and broken ribs.
The Hollywood actress denied responsibility and filed a counterclaim.
Paltrow is seeking $1, in addition to compensation for attorney’s fees. She was present at the procedures every day.
On Wednesday, the Oscar winner wore head-to-toe black as she got out of a dark SUV and entered Third District Court.
Mr. Sanderson was already inside the courtroom and the two did their best to avoid eye contact as she passed by.
It’s been more than seven years since the crash on the novice slope known as the Bandana Run – a crash that the former US Army captain and optometrist says left him with a concussion that “totally changed” his life.
On Wednesday, medical experts in the situation by Ms. Paltrow’s defense team questioned that characterization.
“Mr. Sanderson does not currently require ongoing neurological treatment,” said Dr. Robert Hoch, a neurologist, adding, “I will [him] for dementia.”
Neuropsychologist Dr Angela Eastfold said the plaintiff had suffered “at most a mild concussion” and showed no evidence of brain injury.
“Anxiety can drive awareness of many of these difficulties,” she said.
Dr. Eastfold suggested that while the evidence suggested he was “in real distress”, a concussion from the collision with Mrs. Paltrow could not have been the cause of his struggles.
Robert Sykes, Sanderson’s attorney, grew increasingly intimate with witnesses throughout the day.
The Salt Lake City attorney has repeatedly described himself as a “simple country lawyer” who wants simple answers.
Witnesses were accused of snooping Mr. Sanderson from the rostrum and quipping like “Queen of Denmark” – a reference to Hamlet’s mother in William Shakespeare’s play.
Tension rose in the courtroom when Sanderson briefly returned to the stand after testifying earlier this week.
He explained that he directly apologized to Ms Paltrow for describing her in a 2019 news conference as screaming like a “King Kong in the jungle” – he meant to say she screamed like a woman being chased by King Kong.
Turning to face her, he said suing a celebrity was painful but “there has to be someone else [held] responsible” for the accident. Ms. Paltrow can be seen shaking her head vigorously.
The actress and her two children were skating with her now-husband, Brad Falchuk, and their two children when the accident happened.
Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled to begin Thursday.
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