PARK CITY, Utah (KTVX) – As Day 5 of his ski crash case against Gwyneth Paltrow continued this morning, plaintiff Terry Sanderson took the stand to discuss his version of events and his physical and mental health since the incident.
Sanderson is suing Paltrow over a 2016 skiing collision at a Utah ski resort. He’s asking for more than $300,000, claiming Paltrow caused the crash, which he says lead to permanent brain damage that altered his personality. That’s the opposite of what Paltrow testified last week.
The 76-year-old retired optometrist’s Monday testimony came just minutes after the court revealed that a viewer in the case was finally able to access an internet link believed to hold GoPro footage of the crash. While the jury was informed of the possible footage, and both the plaintiffs and the defense agreed the contents were “authentic,” it has not been played for the jury or the public. Nor were any other contents behind the link made available.
Sanderson has long held to the notion that someone on the slopes at Deer Valley Resort must have had a running camera while on the slopes on the day of the crash. While both legal teams have had access to the link for some time now, neither was able to access any data behind the link before this week.
Sanderson has not been in the courtroom for much of the trial, except Friday, when he attended while Paltrow was on the stand. Sanderson testified that he chose to stay out of the courtroom as two of his daughters testified last week, saying he wanted them to “speak totally freely.” While Sanderson’s attorney, Kristin van Orman, asked some questions about his relationship with his daughters, the two mostly spoke about the crash itself.
According to Sanderson, he had met up with a group of semi-regular friends to ski at Deer Valley Resort. Despite being a lifelong skier and describing himself as “advanced intermediate” in skill, he had never been to the resort prior to that day.
Sanderson testified that he and his group started down the resort’s Bandana Run on the way to another run they wanted to try. The group was told by a more experienced skier to stay to the sides of the run, since it was usually very busy. He testified that he saw at least two large signs telling skiers to slow down and said he did.
Shortly after starting his run, however, Sanderson said no one was in front of him. Instead, he heard a “bloodcurdling” scream behind him.
“It was like somebody was out of control and was going to hit a tree and die,” Sanderson testified. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, somebody’s out of control.'”
He then stated he was hit hard from behind, feeling fists and poles in his upper back, which sent him “flying.” While van Orman asked if he was airborne, he replied, “All I saw was a whole lot of snow, and I didn’t see the sky, but I was flying in that sense.”
He called the collision “a serious smack.”
Sanderson noted he tried to deflect his body to the right as best he could to make sure he didn’t entangle other skiers in his fall, but then he landed and he blacked out. When asked if someone landed on top of him, he said he couldn’t know because he was out. He was not clear as to how long he had blacked out.
Sanderson testified that he awoke slowly, feeling afraid and unable to move. A man, he said, was yelling at him repeatedly, telling him he had broken the rules and hit someone. Sanderson said out of fear, he tried to mumble that he was sorry, hoping the man would leave him alone. However, Sanderson said no sound came out of his mouth as he tried to speak. His skis remained on after the crash, he said.
“I was thinking I’ve got to placate this guy,” said Sanderson. “If he wanted to jump on me right now, he could finish me off.” He added that he did not know who the man was. He also noted he had no memory of a woman yelling at him, though Paltrow testified Friday that she had yelled at Sanderson as he lay on the ground after the crash.
Sanderson noted he had a “purple throbbing pain” coming from his ribs and said his brain felt like it was under Novocaine. While he knew who he was and where he was, he was having trouble moving and standing up. Eventually, he said he was “grabbed and jerked up,” though he said he was not ready to be on his feet. He said he felt vulnerable as other skiers shot past him and he was unable to finish the run on his own.
Since the crash, Sanderson testified that he has had trouble communicating with people, and he’s noticed personality changes in himself. He admitted to “being in denial” about his brain injury and trying to do things he did prior to the crash, with poor results. He noted that on at least two occasions, he got lost trying to drive home from volunteer events. He now needs maps to drive and feels he has lost “visual memory,” such as landmarks he might use in trying to travel home.
He testified that he stays home now as a “self-imposed recluse,” having lost confidence and feeling insecure about traveling alone, and that the changes in his personality have caused a relationship to collapse.
While the defense asked Sanderson some questions, it has been agreed that most of the cross-examination will be moved to another date as other witnesses are in town only for a short amount of time. Both Sanderson and Paltrow are expected to take the stand again before the trial ends.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.