NATIONAL NEWS

Gwyneth Paltrow scores court win that means more than $1

Mar 31, 2023, 6:57 AM

Gwyneth Paltrow speaks with retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, left, as she walks out of the cour...

Gwyneth Paltrow speaks with retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, left, as she walks out of the courtroom following the reading of the verdict in their lawsuit trial, Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Park City, Utah. Paltrow won her court battle over a 2016 ski collision at a posh Utah ski resort after a jury decided Thursday that the movie star wasn’t at fault for the crash. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — All that for a dollar?

Nah, Utah ski resort in 2016 was about vindication.

She got it when a jury found her not at fault in the collision, granting her exactly the $1 she sought in her countersuit. As a court reporter read the verdict, the courtroom gallery made up mostly of her supporters exhaled while Paltrow sat next to her lawyer intently and avoided displaying emotion that could be interpreted as surprise or gloating.

She might have come out ahead in the court of public opinion, too, Hollywood lawyers and publicists say.

“It’s not often that you go through the whole expense and time and bother of litigation for a dollar,” said Tre Lovell, a Los Angeles lawyer who handles many celebrity cases. “But she wanted to turn this into a positive as a way of saying ‘I’m not going to get taken advantage of,’ and ‘I’m a good person.’”

The actor-turned-influencer avoided engaging in any memorable missteps during the eight-day trial that she attended every day as viewers in Park City, Utah, and around the world watched closely. She even ended things on a classy note when she stopped before leaving court to lean over and put her hands on her accuser’s shoulder to wish him best of luck.

“She came across on the stand very well,” said Emily D. Baker, legal analyst and former Los Angeles deputy district attorney. “She was personable, she was firm, but she wasn’t ever aggressive. And it actually came across that she had empathy for what this plaintiff has gone through.”

When 76-year-old Terry Sanderson filed the lawsuit in 2019, it was the kind of case that seemed to scream for the quick, confidential settlement typical in lawsuits against celebrities. Instead, it endured for four years through trial.

“I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity,” Paltrow posted to her 8.3 million Instagram followers after the verdict.

Sanderson himself questioned afterward whether the lawsuit was worth it and said he believed that people tend to naturally trust celebrities like Paltrow.

Holly Baird, a publicist who handles major celebrity crises including many court cases, says that while trials have potential downsides, there is no reason for famous people to avoid them at all costs.

“I didn’t see this being a downfall for her,” Baird said. “This isn’t like a murder case or anything. It humanizes her. People have similar stories.”

There were moments of potential pitfall, as when Paltrow answered a question about damages by saying she “had lost half a day of skiing,” acknowledged paying nearly $9,000 for her then-small kids’ skiing instruction and explained why she let her ski instructor stay behind to check on Sanderson and exchange information. As he waited to be tobogganed down the mountain by ski patrol, she followed her children Moses and Apple down the mountain, testifying that she was accustomed to having things done for her.

But the honest answer may not have done her damage.

“They live in a different world and it becomes their normal, but people are going to assume that,” Lovell said. “You can have that and people are going to know it and accept. You’ve just got to come across as humble.”

Baird agreed.

“I think she was authentic,” she said. “She’s with her children, she’s worried about them.”

The jury apparently found Paltrow likeable enough, returning after just 2 1/2 hours to give her a resounding win that blamed the collision 100% on Sanderson.

His lawsuit had sought “more than $300,000, though in closing arguments, his attorneys estimated damages as more than $3.2 million.

Trial lawyers are known to regularly engage in seemingly friendly repartee with witnesses to try and cultivate sympathy among the jury. But many observers thought Sanderson’s attorney Kristin VanOrman did the actor a major favor when she at times appeared charmed by Paltrow when she was on the stand.

When VanOrman asked Paltrow her height and she responded “just under 5’10”,” VanOrman replied, “I am so jealous! I think I’m shrinking. I have to wear heels just to make it to 5’5″.”

VanOrman’s efforts to flag for the jury that Paltrow was larger than the man she collided with were overshadowed when the actor said back: “They’re very nice.”

Lovell said it was so “bizarre and ineffective” that he thought VanOrman was Paltrow’s attorney when he first tuned in.

“That was ridiculous,” she said. “The jury sees that and thinks she must not be that bad if the opposing attorney likes her. She seemed star struck.”

Once among the most ubiquitous leading women in Hollywood, Goop, whose offerings have brought her ridicule in some quarters as the quintessential out-of-touch peddler of celebrity woo-woo.

But that also makes Paltrow her own boss, who is not beholden to others for work, and has brought her a devoted set of customer-fans.

“Gwyneth has such a cult following in the lifestyle and wellness brand, and people love to see another side of their life like this,” Baird said. “I think her PR team should be using it. She’s getting way more TV time than she would any other way.”

Paltrow’s fight to clear her name resonated with many of her fans, including those who braved blizzards to fill the gallery of the Park City courtroom for two weeks.

“When you are a celebrity you know that you’re going to get some of this, but that was totally over the top,” said Ann Malcolm, a Park City local who enjoys skiing at Deer Valley, the mountain where Paltrow and Sanderson crashed.

A crowd made up of locals and some who traveled from California to catch a glimpse of the trial snapped selfies, showed each other mockups of t-shirts that read “#Gwynnocent” and commended Paltrow for being both gracious and fighting to clear her name.

“He thought it would be an easy payday,” said David Madow, a retired dentist and avid skier who attended multiple days of court proceedings. “I was impressed with the fact that she said ’No, I’m not gonna do that.”

___

Dalton reported from Los Angeles.

___

Associated Press Writer Krysta Fauria contributed.

National News

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts after speaking at a campaign...

Associated Press

Trump expected to turn his full focus on Harris at first rally since Biden’s exit from 2024 race

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Donald Trump is holding his first public campaign rally since President Joe Biden dropped out of a 2024 matchup that both major parties had spent months preparing for, leaving the former president to direct his ire toward his likely new opponent, Vice President Kamala Harris. Trump is expected to turn his […]

37 minutes ago

A runner and their pacer run as the sun rises behind them on California Route 190 during the Badwat...

Associated Press

Runners set off on the annual Death Valley ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race

DEATH VALLEY NATOINAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — During a rainstorm that partially obscured the light of a a nearly full moon, 97 runners pushed off in desolate Death Valley with the launch of a 48-hour annual ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race — the Badwater 135. After starting late Monday night, the men […]

45 minutes ago

FILE - FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee o...

Associated Press

FBI chief to face questions over Trump assassination attempt as he returns to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to testify Wednesday about the bureau’s investigation into the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, with lawmakers at a congressional hearing likely to press him for fresh details about the gunman’s motive and background. The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee will represent Wray’s most […]

47 minutes ago

President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One as he arrives Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Ju...

Associated Press

Biden will make a case for his legacy – and for Harris to continue it – in his Oval Office address

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even though President Joe Biden won’t be on the ballot this November, voters still will be weighing his legacy. As Vice President Kamala Harris moves to take his place as the Democratic standard-bearer, Biden’s accomplishments remain very much at risk should Republican Donald Trump prevail. How Biden’s single term — and his […]

50 minutes ago

Former U.S. Army medical technician Louis M. Gigliotti tours the Alaska Veterans Museum following h...

Associated Press

An Alaska veteran is finally getting his benefits — 78 years after the 103-year-old was discharged

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A 103-year-old World War II veteran who’s been paying his medical bills out-of-pocket is finally getting his veterans benefits from the U.S. government after 78 years. Louis Gigliotti’s caretaker says the former U.S. Army medical technician has a card from the Veteran Administration but he never realized he could use his […]

52 minutes ago

Vice President Kamala Harris campaigns for President as the presumptive Democratic candidate during...

Associated Press

Democrats hope Harris’ bluntness on abortion will translate to 2024 wins in Congress, White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden might not often use the word “abortion” when he talks about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but Vice President Kamala Harris sure does. She’s also toured a Planned Parenthood clinic where the procedure is performed, and routinely links the fall of Roe to the larger issue of rising […]

54 minutes ago

Gwyneth Paltrow scores court win that means more than $1