Gwyneth Paltrow’s attorney painted an unflattering picture of the retired eye doctor suing his Oscar-winning client during opening statements in a Utah courtroom on Tuesday.
Terry Sanderson, 76, is suing the ‘Emma’ actress over a skiing accident in 2016. Both parties claim the other was at fault.
While Paltrow says the skirmish caused by Sanderson left her upset and left only minor injuries, Sanderson says Paltrow’s neglect on the tracks left him with brain damage so severe that his personality and his behavior changed after the accident.
Paltrow’s lead defense attorney, Stephen Owens, ridiculed Sanderson’s claims before the eight-person jury in Park City, Utah.
“Let me suggest that this sword is being used to defend a baseless claim,” the defense attorney said during a lengthy metaphor using an image of Justice holding a sword. “A false allegation. Really kind of offensive. That she somehow left him, an unconscious man, and ran away. And, it’s, it’s – I can tell you, we think it’s completely BS”
At that time, the plaintiff’s attorney, Robert Sykes, objected because the defendant was arguing.
Third District Court Judge Kent Holmberg upheld the objection.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski accident lawsuit is likely to be anything but simple, say legal experts
But Owens wasn’t quite done tearing up the defendant.
“You should pay more attention to tapes before someone thinks of a ‘trial’ than tapes after someone thinks of a ‘trial,'” Paltrow’s attorney told another sustained objection.
Owens recreated the skiing accident as the defendant sees it, blaming the incident squarely on Sanderson’s fault and suggesting that his client was so angry she “could have said the F-word”.
Paltrow’s attorney also tried to color the jurors’ impressions of the witnesses the former eye doctor gathered.
“You’re going to hear girls,” Owens said. “He has three daughters. He’s away with it [third] daughter. She paints a not so great story about him before the skiing accident.
The defense lawyer told jurors they would spend a lot of time hearing bad things no one in the room wanted to hear – but insisted he had a ‘lawyer’ obligation to defend his client with “what is true”.
“If a 75-year-old man says, ‘I don’t think as well as I used to. My brain doesn’t work as well as it used to. I forget things,’ we have to — that’s why we’re all here — we have to go back and look at those things,” Owens said. “If he says my relationships were damaged by Gwyneth, we have to go back – it’s kind of a deep dive – and say, ‘What were your relationships like before that? “”
Paltrow’s lawyer then admitted that Sanderson had, in recent years, had issues with confusion, ‘strained relationships’ and memory loss – but argued that these issues were due to the natural course of aging and the applicant’s “pre-existing problems”.
Reflecting on the immediate aftermath of the incident, Owens noted that Sanderson enjoys using social media.
“So that’s a poster,” the attorney said, waving his hands briefly. “Big on Facebook. So there are a lot of pictures of him.
Paltrow’s side argued that all of these images would help understand the plaintiff during the trial.
“What does he post to his daughters?” Owens asked before miming the act of tapping and pausing for a beat: “‘I’m famous…'”
Owens continued, “He’s not posting ‘I’m hurt’ He’s not posting goobledy-gok, is that the right word? Confusing stuff.
The attorney then showed jurors that the “post” was an email from Sanderson to his daughters sent at 8 p.m. the night of the accident.
The plaintiff’s side repeatedly objected to many of Owen’s other lines – many of which stood. At one point, the defendant’s attorney asked Sanderson’s attorney to keep his interruptions to a minimum.
The request drew a quick rebuke from the judge, who said some of the objections were valid. A short sidebar was then called in to chop things up. After that, things calmed down, but the complaining party objected several times afterwards, winning and losing. Owens said he didn’t think the objections were appropriate, and another boxer was called.
At one point, Owens said Sanderson posted a “very happy and smiling photo” of himself being taken down the slope after the crash.
“His memories of the case are getting better over the years,” Owens said after the first sidebar. “That’s all I’m going to say about it. That’s not how memory works.
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