The final stages of the Utah ski crash trial involving the actor and wellness entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow and the retired optometrist Terry Sanderson began on Thursday with the presentation to the jury of mathematical equations and complex physics.
Sanderson claims Paltrow broke his ribs and inflicted concussion in the ski collision in 2016. Paltrow counters that the crash was not her fault.
Attorneys for Sanderson, 76, called Richard Boehme, a neurologist, as their final witness.
“This is not a free-falling event,” Boehme said. “There is not enough impact force to fracture those ribs, so there has to be a mitigating circumstance, ie: something fell on top of him in addition to him falling to the ground to cause those ribs to fracture in an otherwise healthy male.
“The only other way it could have [happened] … if you consider him striking Ms Paltrow from behind is … you would have to generate a rotational force on him and Ms Paltrow, resulting on him falling on to the ground and Ms Paltrow falling on top of him.”
The closely watched trial was expected to draw to a close with closing arguments to the eight-member jury on Thursday and a verdict to follow.
After a judge dismissed his initial $3.1m complaint, Sanderson amended and refiled the lawsuit seeking “more than $300,000”, a threshold that provides the opportunity to introduce the most evidence and depose the most witnesses allowed in civil court. Paltrow countersued for a symbolic $1 and attorney fees.
On Wednesday, Paltrow’s defense used most of their final full day in control of the witness stand to call medical experts. Each side was to have roughly one hour to give closing arguments.
Paltrow’s attorneys were expected to continue their two-pronged approach, arguing that she did not cause the accident and that its effects were not as bad as Sanderson claims. They have painted him as an “obsessed” man pushing “utter BS” claims against someone whose fame makes them vulnerable to unfair lawsuits.
Sanderson’s team were expected to cite how the man claiming to be the sole eyewitness testified to seeing Paltrow hit their client, and to continue spinning the case as a contemporary David versus Goliath tale in which Sanderson had the courage to take on a star.
Sanderson testified last week that he continued to pursue damages because the cascading events that followed, his post-concussion symptoms and the accusation that he sued to exploit Paltrow’s celebrity, added insult to injury.
“That’s the purpose: to make me regret this lawsuit. It’s the pain of trying to sue a celebrity,” he said on Wednesday in response to a question from his attorney about Paltrow’s team investigating his personal life, medical records and extensive post-crash international travel itinerary.
Though both sides have marshaled significant resources, the verdict could end up being remembered as an afterthought dwarfed by worldwide attention. The amount of money at stake pales in comparison to the typical legal costs of a multi-year lawsuit, private security detail and expert witness-heavy trial.
Attorneys have confronted difficult choices about how to juggle hired experts with family members, doctors and testimony from Sanderson and Paltrow.
Paltrow’s defense team picked mostly experts on Wednesday. They chose to call four experts rather than Paltrow’s husband, the television producer Brad Falchuk.
In the final hour, they called Sanderson back to the stand. A day earlier, they read depositions from Paltrow’s two children, Apple and Moses.
On Friday, members of the jury were riveted when Paltrow said she thought she was being “violated” when the collision began. Sanderson said she ran into him and sent him “absolutely flying”.
The trial has shone a spotlight on Park City, a ski resort that welcomes celebrities like Paltrow for the Sundance Film Festival.
Residents have filled the courtroom gallery. At times they have appeared captivated by Paltrow’s reactions, while at others they have mirrored the jury, whose endurance has been tested by hours of dense medical testimony.
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