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Gwyneth Paltrow not guilty in ski-crash lawsuit

Gwyneth Paltrow is not liable for an accident on a swanky US ski slope, a jury ruled Thursday, as it dismissed a claim from a retired optometrist. Terry Sanderson, 76, had alleged a collision in Utah with the star left him with four broken ribs and lasting psychological damage, injuries his lawyers said were worth $3.3 million. Paltrow countersued for a symbolic $1. After an eight-day civil trial, the jury in Park City unanimously found the “Shakespeare in Love” actress did not cause the 2016 crash, a position she had maintained all along. “I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity,” Paltrow, 50, said after the verdict.

“I am pleased with the outcome,” she added. The live-streamed hearing sparked headlines around the world, and became a hot topic on social media, generating memes and making perhaps-unwitting stars of the lawyers involved. The Oscar-winner was in court every day, listening attentively to evidence, including Sanderson’s claims that she had run into him with such force that he went airborne. “I got hit in my back so hard and it was right at my shoulder blades, a serious, serious smack. I’ve never been hit that hard, and I’m flying,” he told the jury earlier.

Attorney Steve Owens takes the court through his closing statement, arguing his client Gwyneth Paltrow is innocent.

“Last thing I remember, everything was black.” The plaintiff said the crash, which happened at the tony Deer Valley resort, had left him with permanent brain damage and had altered his personality such that he could no longer enjoy life. “These are golden years,” attorney Lawrence Buhler told the jury Thursday before they began their deliberations. “These are the most valuable years when you can enjoy your retirement and actually do things like travel. “Terry doesn’t want to be brain injured. He wants to live life to its fullest,” Buhler said.

“He’s got this issue that a big part of him was left up on that … ski run.” Buhler asked the jury to award Sanderson $33 for every waking hour since the incident and continuing until his death, which actuarial tables indicate might come in 10 years. That amounts to “$3,276,000 for the 17 years that Terry has to deal with this permanent brain injury.” Sanderson had originally sued for $3.1 million, but the suit was later adjusted to a legal minimum of $300,000. However, from the beginning of the proceedings last week, his lawyers had put the figure they were seeking at $3.3 million.

Gwyneth Paltrow reacts to the verdict.

Defied physics Paltrow’s defense team assembled a bevy of experts who testified that Sanderson’s version of the crash defied the laws of physics. They said that evidence showed he had run into the back of her while she was on the slopes with her children, Apple and Moses. Others noted that several of Sanderson’s medical complaints — including problems with executive functioning — existed before the crash. They also noted that he had previously suffered a stroke and had poor vision in one eye.

In a dramatic afternoon of testimony, lawyer Stephen Owens produced a raft of photographs posted on Sanderson’s social media accounts after the incident showing him travelling all over the world, and even skiing. The jury was sequestered for around two hours before they returned to completely deny Sanderson’s claim, and to award Paltrow the $1 that she had asked for. As she left the courtroom, Paltrow bent over to speak to Sanderson. He later told reporters that she had “wished me well.”

The judge will later rule on the question of legal fees, with Paltrow claiming Sanderson should meet her costs. One of the jurors on the panel, which found unanimously that Sanderson was 100 percent at fault for the crash, told ABC News the case had been “a little shocking.” Samantha Imrie said her mind had changed several times as the evidence was presented, but ultimately, she thought Paltrow’s testimony to be more convincing. “I think there was, in the back of my mind, yes, this woman’s an actress and I took that into account, but I didn’t feel she had a reason to lie under oath,” Imrie said. “She’s always in the spotlight so she always has to be honest.” – AFP

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