A neuropsychologist who treated the man suing Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 ski collision cast aspersions on the testimony of medical experts hired by the celebrity’s legal team — and argued that, as his personal doctor, she was better suited to speak about 76-year-old Terry Sanderson’s post-concussion symptoms.
“A lot of the experts are opining. I feel like I’m the best judge of what happened to him,” Dr. Alina Fong said.
Fong’s videotaped deposition was the first to be shown on the third day of the trial in Park City, the upscale Utah ski resort town where Sanderson accuses Paltrow of skiing so recklessly that she crashed into him, broke his ribs and left him with lasting brain injuries.
Fong said that when she saw Sanderson less than a year after the accident, he had lost his love for life. He was often dejected and crying. And under her care, Sanderson worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the post-concussion symptoms — including pain, headaches and mood shifts. In cross-examination, she accused Paltrow’s attorneys of planting “red herrings” to mislead jurors. Fong said conclusions from Paltrow’s experts — who have yet to testify — were “easily reputable by just going online and looking at the CDC recommendations.”
Sanderson’s two daughters were also expected to testify on Thursday about the lasting effects of the crash as the trial takes on an increasingly personal note on the third day of proceedings.
Attorneys are expected to call Polly Grasham and Shae Herath to the stand and question them about the broken ribs and lasting brain damage that their father Terry Sanderson claims he sustained after his collision with Paltrow seven years ago.
Neurologist Richard Boehme and Paltrow herself could also be called to testify on either Thursday or Friday.
Sanderson is suing Paltrow for $300,000, claiming she recklessly crashed into him while the two were skiing on a beginner run at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. In a counterclaim, Paltrow is seeking $1 and attorney fees. The amount of money at stake for both sides pales in comparison to the typical legal costs of a multiyear lawsuit and expert witness-heavy trial.
During the first two days of trial, Sanderson’s attorneys and expert medical witnesses described how his injuries were likely caused by someone crashing into him from behind. They attributed noticeable changes in Sanderson’s mental acuity to injuries from that day.
Paltrow’s attorneys have tried to represent Sanderson as a 76-year-old whose decline has followed a normal course of aging rather than the results of a crash. They have not yet called witnesses of their own to testify, but in opening statements previewed for jurors that they plan to call Paltrow’s husband Brad Falchuk and her two children, Moses and Apple.
Paltrow’s team has previously accused Sanderson of suing to exploit their client’s wealth and celebrity. She is the Oscar-winning star of “Shakespeare in Love” and founder-CEO of the beauty and wellness company Goop.
Her legal team has thus far attempted to poke holes in testimony from Sanderson’s team of experts — and are expected to question his two daughters about their father mentioning Paltrow’s fame, and an email alluding to footage recorded on a GoPro camera that hasn’t been found or included in evidence.
Although ski collisions in general are not uncommon, most accidents occur when a skier collides with a tree or another kind of inanimate object or obstacle. Incidents where a skier collides with another skier happen less often. The National Ski Areas Association recorded 57 fatal incidents stemming from collisions during the 2021-2022 ski season, and most involved skiers hitting trees. Of all skiers who died in those incidents, 95% were men, according to the NSAA, which also reported 54 “catastrophic” incidents over the course of the same season.
This case and its eventual outcome hinge on whether Paltrow or Sanderson acted in an unreasonable manner while skiing that day in Deer Valley, and if someone did, then whom. Roger Cohn, a personal injury attorney at Kohn Roth Law, told CBS MoneyWatch that negligence is a central part of the debate.
“When one skier hits another, the issue is negligence. Did they do something wrong?” Cohn said, adding, “The uphill skier has to watch out for the downhill skier. If you’re overtaking someone and hit them, chances are you are liable and at fault.”
His analysis is consistent with the NSAA’s responsibility code, which applies to ski resorts across North America. According to the code, “people ahead of downhill of you have the right of way. You must avoid them.” The rules also stipulate that skiers must “always stay in control” and be able to stop when necessary to avoid other people.