Gwyneth Paltrow’s attorneys called ski crash accuser Terry Sanderson back to the stand late on Wednesday in a final effort to eviscerate claims that he suffered an extensive brain injury that led to loss of joie de vivre and brain function as a result of the actress allegedly skiing into him on a Utah mountain slope.
Under an intense grilling, Sanderson was shown photographs, culled from Facebook, showing the retired eye doctor taking frequent holiday trips around the world after the ski collision, including floating down the Amazon, visiting the Netherlands three times, Morocco twice, Thailand and other destinations.
Sanderson said the happiness he appeared to show in the holiday pictures was “reflexive”, and he maintained he had not deliberately insulted Paltrow when he referred to her as “King Kong” and “Godzilla”. He said it had been “difficult” to sue a celebrity but he did not regret it.
“I felt like I was seriously injured and had so many insults added to that,” he said, alleging that his claims had been ignored by the actress. “This is obviously an issue that somebody has to be held accountable for. If they’re never held accountable, obviously they’re going to do it again.”
Paltrow’s attorneys have contended that Sanderson’s claims that she crashed into him are “utter BS”. On cross-examination, Paltrow attorney Steven Owens pointed out that the uncomfortable public exposure Sanderson said he had experienced during the trial was his own doing.
“Do you realize that you are the reason your life has been exposed to the world?” he asked.
Sanderson replied: “I’m realizing that now, yes.”
Earlier, a neurologist called by Paltrow’s attorneys testified that the man the actor and lifestyle entrepreneur collided with in 2016 showed “no evidence of post-traumatic brain injury” in scans taken before or after the incident.
Where there were “anomalies” in Terry Sanderson’s brain, Dr Carl Black said, they “pre-date the accident and go back to 2009”.
His testimony contradicted claims that being skied into by Paltrow left Sanderson, 76 and a retired optometrist, with a serious brain injury.
On the seventh day of the trial, attorneys for Paltrow continued to rely mostly on experts to mount their defence.
Another witness, the neurologist Dr Robert Hoesch, suggested Sanderson may have “dementia”. He testified that Sanderson would have recovered from a simple concussion if he had sustained one in the crash.
“If he had a concussion, it was very mild,” Hoesch said, adding that underlying depression and anxiety Sanderson has described could exist as a result of natural, age-related brain deterioration, even if he had not crashed into Paltrow seven years ago.
“The cure for this is the end of this lawsuit,” Hoesch told Paltrow’s lawyer. “Suing somebody, going through a trial, a trial that has national recognition, can bring on a lot of anxiety,” he added.
The judge, Kent Holmberg, had made it clear he wanted Paltrow’s defence to rest by Thursday afternoon, to give the jury enough time to deliberate and come to a verdict.
That produced a rush of 12 experts, collectively attempting to show jurors the collision could not have been Paltrow’s fault and that she is not responsible for Sanderson’s symptoms.
Sanderson is asking for more than $300,000, alleging Paltrow’s recklessness caused the crash, leaving him with four broken ribs and years of post-concussion symptoms including confusion, memory loss and irritability.
Paltrow has counter-sued for a symbolic $1 and attorney fees, alleging Sanderson hit her from behind.
Earlier this week, the court heard from Paltrow’s daughter, 18-year-old Apple Martin, who said she was skiing ahead of her mother and didn’t see the crash but learned of it when her mother was 10 minutes late for lunch and had explained that another skier ran into her.
“She came in and she looked a bit shocked. She said this a-hole ran into me, right into my back. She did this motion showing how it happened,” she said.
Martin said her mother was “frantic” and “in a state of shock” and decided to take the rest of the day off from the slopes.
“I never see her really shaken up like that,” she said. “She was clearly, visibly upset and she was in a little bit of pain. That’s why she went to the spa to get a massage.”
Apple Martin’s brother, Moses Martin, 16, said he saw the collision and his mother had been on the snow for two minutes before getting up.
“I stood there wondering what was going on and then I remember after we went to eat lunch,” he said. Moses, who was nine at the time, recalled that at lunch his mom said “she got hit or ran into”.
Paltrow’s children had been expected to testify in person but the trial, in its second week, is running out of time.
Nonetheless, the defence left the door open to call Paltrow or Brad Falchuk, her television producer husband.
The Associated Press contributed reporting
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