This much is clear: Actor Gwyneth Paltrow was involved in a skiing accident with retired optometrist Terry Sanderson at the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, on February 26, 2016. Less clear is exactly how it happened and who was responsible for it.

Starting Tuesday, Paltrow has appeared in court for a civil trial. She is disputing allegations that she is to blame for the accident and that she caused serious injuries to Sanderson, who is suing her for $300,000 in damages.

In her countersuit, Paltrow claims Sanderson was actually the responsible party and that his lawsuit is a frivolous attempt to extort her wealth and fame and win himself a large amount of money. Sanderson originally sought $3.1 million but later lowered that amount.

Here is what both sides say happened.

What Terry Sanderson Says

terry sanderson looks sideways at the camera with a solemn expression, he has graying hair and a white mustache and goatee, he is wearing a gray suit jacket with a subtle pattern, a white collared shirt with a subtle pattern and a blue tie with black and white stripes, behind him are parts of two wooden doors with frosted glass panes
Terry Sanderson arrives at court in Park City, Utah, on March 21, 2023.
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Sanderson, a 76-year-old who lives in Salt Lake City, claims that he was downhill from Paltrow, which would mean he had the right of way and Paltrow had “a duty to ski safely” around him, according to The New York Times. Instead, he claims, she was skiing recklessly and “out of control” before striking him in the back.

Paltrow screamed before colliding into Sanderson, knocking him down hard and rendering him unconscious, according to his account. He claims the collision caused a traumatic brain injury and broke four of his ribs, in addition to other serious injuries, as well as emotional distress.

Sanderson described the incident as a “hit and run,” claiming Paltrow skied away and left him sprawled on the ground. The resort’s ski patrol hauled Sanderson in a toboggan to a medical tent after the collision, according to the Associated Press, and he was later taken to an emergency room.

Sanderson’s friend and ski companion Craig Ramon claims he witnessed Paltrow ski into Sanderson’s back. Ramon said a Deer Valley ski instructor in Paltrow’s party then approached the group and acted “very hostile” toward Sanderson, repeatedly yelling “What did you do?” to him as he lay in the snow, according to NBC News.

Ramon said Paltrow and the instructor failed to call for help and left the scene a few minutes after the crash, according to NBC News. Paltrow did not identify herself or ask whether anyone needed help, he claims. Sanderson’s lawsuit also names the resort as a defendant.

What Gwyneth Paltrow Says

gwyneth paltrow, wearing a white sweater, holds a blue book in front of her face in a courtroom, as a man in a black shirt stands in the foreground
Gwyneth Paltrow shields her face with a blue notebook as she exits the courtroom in Park City, Utah, on March 21, 2023.
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Paltrow claims she was the one downhill of Sanderson and that he struck her in the back. During his opening statement on March 21, her attorney Stephen W. Owens said Paltrow suddenly saw “two skis appear between her skis and a man comes up right behind her,” according to The New York Times.

Sanderson “plowed into her back” and caused her to sustain a “full body blow,” briefly making her believe she was being assaulted, according to Paltrow’s account. She claims Sanderson was not unconscious and that he apologized after the incident and said he was fine, according to the Associated Press. The ski instructor said he did not actually see the collision and only heard Paltrow scream and hit the ground, per AP.

Paltrow’s legal team called Sanderson’s lawsuit an “attempt to exploit her celebrity and wealth” and get her to “pay him millions.” Hours after the crash, Sanderson emailed his daughter about the incident, telling her, “I’m famous.”

Paltrow’s countersuit against Sanderson seeks $1 in damages and the cost of her legal fees. She and the resort have noted that Sanderson waited nearly three years before filing his lawsuit. Sanderson claims this is because he had problems with his attorneys and was having difficulty functioning properly because of the concussion he sustained during the incident.

In its court filming, the Deer Valley Resort argued a “recreational skiing accident” that Sanderson waited three years before filing a lawsuit about doesn’t rise to the level of leaving a “reasonable person unable to cope with his daily life,” according to the Associated Press.

Headshot of Colin McEvoy
Colin McEvoy
Senior News Editor,

Colin McEvoy joined the staff in 2023, and before that had spent 16 years as a journalist, writer, and communications professional. He is the author of two true crime books: Love Me or Else and Fatal Jealousy. He is also an avid film buff, reader, and lover of great stories.