An attorney for Gwyneth Paltrow apologized to a witness for the way he conducted his cross-examination earlier in the day on Thursday.
“I need to apologize,” Paltrow’s lead defense attorney Stephen Owens told plaintiff’s witness Polly Sanderson Grasham. “I was being an ass.”
Grasham was called as a witness by her father, Terry Sanderson, in the ongoing negligence trial. The upshot of her testimony has been that her father changed substantially in the aftermath of the February 2016 ski crash with the “The Talented Mr. Ripley” actress.
Sanderson claims that Paltrow’s negligence on the beginner slopes at Deer Valley Resort ski left him with such severe brain injuries that his personality and demeanor changed after the accident. He plans to ask jurors for some $3 million in damages.
Paltrow blames Sanderson and says the skirmish upset her and left her with only minor injuries. She is asking for $1 and attorney’s fees.
The apology came after a tense series of questions related to Sanderson’s relationship with his daughters – particularly his daughter Jenny Sanderson, who sat for a lengthy deposition with the defense and was slated to attend the trial as a defense witness but who decided against testifying before proceedings began.
Owens previewed his line of questioning during opening statements earlier this week.
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“You’re gonna hear from some daughters,” Owens said. “He has three daughters. He’s on the outs with that [third] daughter. She paints a not-great story about him before the ski accident.”
The defense attorney told jurors they would spend a lot of time hearing bad things no one in the room wanted to hear but insisted he had a “lawyer” obligation to defend his client with “what’s true.”
On Thursday, Paltrow’s attorney sought to pit the two sisters’ words and relationships with their father against one another.
“So, as to Jenny, was he domineering and verbally abusive to her? Prior to the ski collision?” Owens asked.
“Disagree,” Grasham replied.
“So, she made that up?” the attorney pressed. “She’s testified under oath. She made that up?”
Grasham became visibly and audibly affronted by the question.
“It’s her experience,” she said. “So–”
“I want the truth,” Owens said, interrupting the witness.
She disputed the framing: “You’re asking my opinion, and I think you have her experience.”
But Owens did not let up.
“Is she lying?” Paltrow’s attorney asked again.
Grasham furrowed her brown, again annoyed. She asked: “Are you saying there’s only–there’s one truth?”
“On certain facts, there is,” the attorney said.
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Near the end of the relatively minor contretemps, Sanderson’s attorney Robert Sykes objected to the line of questioning.
“You can ask what the facts are,” Sykes said. “And the jury can make up its own mind. But he shouldn’t be concluding for someone who’s not here whether she’s telling the truth or not. That’s improper.”
Third District Court Judge Kent Holmberg sustained the objection.
Owens then tried another way.
“So if Jenny says that your father was domineering, do you agree or disagree? Prior to the ski accident?” he asked.
“Disagree,” the witness replied.
“And if she so testifies – and we’re going to read part of her transcript into the record – if she so testifies, that is not true?” Owens asked. “He was not domineering? Is that what you’re saying?”
Grasham said: “I’m saying he was not domineering.”
The attorney continued in this fashion for some time; the witness maintained that her sister’s testimony differed from hers.
“So they can both be true?” the attorney quizzed the witness.
The plaintiff lodged another objection, but the judge overruled that complaint.
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Grasham tried to hone in on the discrepancy without speaking ill of her sister. She said: “So, depending on people’s mental capabilities and disabilities, sometimes we experience events differently.”
The questioning ended after Owens asked about Sanderson’s relationship with his first wife – Grasham’s mother. Again, the attorney sought to pit the words and experiences of the women in the plaintiff’s lives’ against one another.
After the break came the apology.
“It was wrong of me to triangulate you, your dad, and your sister,” Owens said. “And your mom. And I ask for your forgiveness.”
The full apology can be viewed below:
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