Gwyneth Paltrow “slammed very hard” into a fellow skier, hitting him directly in the back, as he fell face down, lying “spread-eagled” in the snow, a US court has heard.
The Hollywood actress, 50, has been accused of “dangerous” and “reckless” behaviour before “bolting” down the slope without saying a word, as she faces claims she seriously injured Terry Sanderson in a “hit-and-run” crash in 2016.
The movie star, who is also a lifestyle influencer, allegedly skied “out of control” during a family holiday and hit the retired optometrist at Deer Valley Resort in Utah. He is suing her for $300,000 (£245,000).
She rejects the claim, with her lawyer calling Mr Sanderson’s version of events “utter BS”.
The lawsuit claimed Paltrow crashed into him, “knocking him down hard, knocking him out, and causing a brain injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries”.
“Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow,” it added.
However, the actress’s legal team has told jurors that Mr Sanderson was the one who crashed into her – a collision in which she sustained what they called a “full body blow”.
On the opening day, the first witness to appear was Craig Ramon, a fellow skier and “acquaintance” of Mr Sanderson who said he was the only other person present at the time of the collision. He had been about 11 metres (35ft) away.
Mr Ramon said: “We were skiing down the run and then I heard this yell, this scream, and then I looked over and… then I see this skier [Paltrow] just slam into the back of Terry.
“She slammed him very hard. She hits him directly in the back, his skis go out and he falls face down, so he’s kind of spread-eagled and Gwyneth is on top of him… and bounces off and slides about five or 10ft.”
Paltrow, an Oscar-winning actress known for her roles in Shakespeare In Love and Marvel’s Iron Man movies, has alleged Mr Sanderson, 76, is actually the culprit in the collision, and has been overstating his injuries as well as trying to exploit her celebrity and wealth.
The US star sat in court wearing a high-necked cream jumper and brown trousers as the case began in the Utah ski town of Park City.
Mr Ramon said he had asked both Mr Sanderson and Paltrow if they were alright.
“Terry wasn’t moving, his face was in the snow… his helmet was stuck in the snow. [Paltrow] just looked at me and I asked her again. She got up pretty quick… [but] she never said a word,” he said.
Ski instructor ‘yelled’ at Mr Sanderson
Mr Ramon said a ski instructor, later identified as Eric Christiansen, had arrived after and started “yelling” at Mr Sanderson.
He said Paltrow had then “bolted” down the hill.
Mr Ramon added Paltrow had not offered her name or contact information, and did not ask if Mr Sanderson was hurt or required help.
Lawrence Buhler, representing Mr Sanderson, told jurors that Paltrow’s behaviour on the mountain in 2016 had been “reckless” and he accused her of a “conscious disregard for other people on the mountain”.
Mr Buhler claimed she “knew that looking up the mountain and to the side while skiing down the mountain was dangerous”.
Who was farther downhill?
On ski slopes, Utah law gives the skier who is downhill the right of way, and a central question in the case is who was farther down the beginner’s run when the collision happened.
Both Paltrow and Mr Sanderson claim they were farther downhill when the other rammed into them, causing their skis to intertwine and the pair to tumble.
The defence’s case
Paltrow’s legal team maintain that Mr Sanderson was the one who crashed into her.
Her lawyer Steve Owens called Mr Sanderson’s version of what happened in the incident “utter BS”.
He also said that members of Paltrow’s group checked on Mr Sanderson, who assured them he was fine – an interaction Sanderson does not deny but said in court filings that he cannot remember.
Mr Owens added Paltrow had told her daughter that “some a-hole” had run into her and had been “mad” later, choosing to finish skiing for the day.
Mr Sanderson has accused Deer Valley and its workers of being involved in a “cover up” by not providing complete information on incident reports and not following resort safety policies.
Mr Sanderson first sued Paltrow in 2019, seeking $3.1m (£2.5m) in damages.
He is now seeking $300,000 after that claim was dropped.
Read more from Sky News:
Bruce Willis celebrates 68th birthday following dementia diagnosis
Harry Potter actor dies after collapsing outside King’s Cross
The actress countersued for a symbolic $1, saying it was Mr Sanderson who had caused the crash.
Paltrow’s claim said she was shaken by the collision and stopped skiing with her family for the day.
It added that Mr Sanderson apologised to her and said he was fine.
The trial is scheduled to last for eight days.