The jurors ruled that plaintiff Terry Sanderson, 76, was 100% responsible for the crash, despite his claims that Paltrow crashed into him on the slopes, resulting in his four broken ribs and a possible concussion. Paltrow’s $1 award for damages came from her countersuit to Sanderson’s. Paltrow’s defense team argued that Sanderson actually crashed into Paltrow and that any injuries he sustained were his own fault.
The verdict came only three hours after closing arguments wrapped.
Jurors had to rely on the testimony of expert witnesses who were not on the scene and conflicting eyewitnesses who were. Either way, very scant evidence exists from the actual crash. While there was a lot of discussion about possible GoPro camera footage floating around, possibly on the internet, it never surfaced.
“It’s a ‘he-said, she-said’ case,” said Sanderson’s attorney Kristin van Orman Thursday morning.
But Paltrow’s attorneys reminded the jury as the case ended that it was Sanderson’s team that had to provide the burden of proof.
During closing arguments, Sanderson’s attorneys suggested that the jury award their client $3.27 million for the crash, based on Sanderson’s life expectancy and the seven years he has suffered since the crash. It should be noted that Sanderson’s attorneys did not make official changes to their damages request, but rather only gave the jury a “recommendation.”
Sanderson will instead walk away with no awarded damages. It is currently unclear how much he will have to pay for Paltrow’s court costs.
The end of the case comes after eight days of dizzying testimony, including appearances from two of Sanderson’s daughters, his former girlfriend, Paltrow’s children, ski instructors, numerous medical experts, CGI recreations, and even complex mathematical formulas on the physics of falling.
“I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity,” Paltrow said in a statement released by her representatives. She also thanked the judge and jury for their work.
As Paltrow left court she touched Sanderson’s shoulder and said, “I wish you well,” Sanderson told reporters outside the courthouse. He responded, “Thank you, dear.”
Her attorney, Steve Owens, added in a statement he read outside court that “Gwyneth 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.”
Paltrow’s defense team represented Sanderson as an angry, aging and unsympathetic man who had over the years become “obsessed” with his lawsuit against Paltrow. They argued that Paltrow wasn’t at fault in the crash and also said, regardless of blame, that Sanderson was overstating the extent of his injuries.
A great deal of the closing arguments Thursday morning centered on witness Craig Ramon, an acquaintance of Sanderson’s who joined him in skiing at Deer Valley as part of a larger group. Ramon was the only member of that group called to the stand. While both sides admit that Ramon did not see the crash itself, he was Sanderson’s primary eyewitness after the crash.
Paltrow’s lawyers hammered on discrepancies in Ramon’s testimony and his supposed behavior on the slopes that day. While Ramon testified that Sanderson had been knocked out after the crash for around two minutes, Paltrow’s lawyers pointed out that he made no move to help Sanderson and he did not contribute to post-crash reports.
“Can you imagine looking at an unconscious person, splayed out, head down, skis down for over two minutes,” said defense attorney Stephen Owens. “Did you call 911? Did you check for breathing? No. Good grief. Give me a break.”
Sanderson’s attorneys, meanwhile, noted that Craig Ramon was not close with Sanderson and that he “had no dog in the fight,” stating he has no reason to lie on the stand. They also noted that after being told that the collision included Gwyneth Paltrow, Ramon was “scared.” Sanderson’s attorneys said their client was also scared to sue a celebrity but did so out of a sense of justice.
Sanderson’s attorneys focused on their client’s injuries sustained in the crash. Both teams agreed that Sanderson broke four ribs in the crash, but Paltrow’s attorneys cast doubt on Sanderson’s claims of a concussion in the crash. They noted that he had started to exhibit some of the same post-crash symptoms weeks before the skiing trip took place.
Paltrow’s team also hammered on Sanderson’s age, noting that while it is unfortunate, he faced numerous health problems before the crash took place, including near blindness in his right eye and a cataract in his left.
“Slow degeneration of bodies are hard to accept,” said defense attorney James Egan. “Mental health challenges are hard to face.”
At the same time, Paltrow’s attorneys seemed to contradict that statement noting that Sanderson remained highly active after the crash, making numerous trips to various countries and attempting to stay fit. Owens said that Sanderson isn’t as bad off as he thinks he is.
“He’s running around like he’s the poster boy for fitness at 75,” said Owens. “… The guy’s Mr. Activity.”
Sanderson’s attorneys, meanwhile, attempted to discredit ski instructor Eric Christiansen, who had been hired by Paltrow on the day of the crash to teach her children to ski. While the court has already dismissed any idea of a cover-up by Christiansen or Deer Valley Resort, Sanderson’s attorneys called Christiansen’s testimony into doubt over the timeline of events. Paltrow’s attorneys said Christiansen has 40 years of experience at his job and a clean record of service.
Eight jurors decided the case Thursday, meaning only six jurors had to agree for a judgment to be rendered. Four men and four women were on the jury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.