Gwyneth Paltrow awarded $1 and cleared of fault over ski crash
Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow has thanked jurors who found her not liable for a 2016 ski crash at a resort in the US state of Utah.
Retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, 76, had said Ms Paltrow crashed into him, inflicting life-changing injuries.
Mr Sanderson, who was seeking $300,000 (£245,000) in damages, said Thursday’s verdict was “very disappointing”.
Jurors sided with Ms Paltrow, 50, who blamed Mr Sanderson for the accident and countersued for $1 plus legal fees.
Listening to the verdict in court, Ms Paltrow was expressionless, staring straight ahead and appearing to nod slightly. She then walked out.
As she left, she briefly stopped to speak to Mr Sanderson. He later said she told him: “I wish you well.” He replied: “Thank you dear.”
In a statement posted as an Instagram story to her 8.3 million followers, the Oscar winner said: “I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity.”
She said she was pleased with the outcome and thanked the judge and eight-member jury for “their thoughtfulness in handling this case”.
It took the jury three hours of deliberation to unanimously find Mr Sanderson entirely at fault for the incident, and award Ms Paltrow the symbolic sum she had sought.
Speaking to media outside, her lawyer Steve Owens said Ms Paltrow “has a history of advocating for what she believes in”.
“This situation was no different and she will continue to stand up for what is right,” he said.
Afterwards Mr Sanderson maintained he was the one hit on the slope and suggested that Ms Paltrow’s star power had helped her in court.
“You get some assumed credibility from being a famous person,” he said. “Really, who wants to take on a celebrity?”
The two-week trial heard from dozens of witnesses with contradictory stories about who crashed into whom.
In Mr Sanderson’s telling, the actress slammed into him on a beginners’ slope at Deer Valley Resort in Park City. Ms Paltrow then skied away while he remained unconscious in the snow with broken ribs, Mr Sanderson said.
The accident left him with life-altering brain trauma, he testified.
On the stand, the Shakespeare in Love and Iron Man star offered an entirely different account.
She said Mr Sanderson had skied directly into her back as she went down the slope with her two children.
“I thought, ‘Is this a practical joke? Is someone doing something perverted? This is really, really strange,'” she said in her testimony.
Mr Sanderson was conscious when she skied away, Paltrow said, and even apologised to her.
Paltrow’s lawyers worked to undermine Mr Sanderson’s claim that his health was ruined by the crash, pointing out a long list of trips he took after the accident to South America, Europe and Morocco.
And they accused Mr Sanderson of trying to exploit their client’s fame, asking about an email he sent to his daughters shortly after the collision, in which he wrote: “I’m famous”.
The case hinged on skiing etiquette, with both parties claiming that they were the downhill skier and therefore had right of way.
But the testimony also contained several inadvertently funny moments, with lawyers asking Ms Paltrow about her height, her fashion, and how close she was with singer Taylor Swift.
There was also a mini-courtroom battle over the provision of a “gift” from Ms Paltrow to court security staff, which was ultimately denied by the judge. One of Ms Paltrow’s security guards later told BBC News that she had wanted to buy them lunch.
And in another exchange, Kristan VanOrman, one of Mr Sanderson’s lawyers, told Ms Paltrow during cross-examination that she was jealous of her height.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, the lawyer said she was “not starstruck” during the trial. “I have a newfound appreciation for Ms Paltrow if she has to deal with all this [media attention] on a daily basis,” she said.
Mr Sanderson initially tried to sue Ms Paltrow for $3.1m, but that case was dismissed.