Gwyneth Paltrow’s decision to tap retired optometrist Terry Sanderson on the shoulder and say ‘I wish you well’ after beating his ski crash lawsuit has been branded the most gracious ‘f*** you’ in US legal history.
The star will be paid $1 damages plus legal costs after jurors found that Sanderson, 76, was ‘100 per cent’ to blame for the crash at the upmarket Utah ski resort seven years ago.
It took just two hours and 20 minutes for the jury to reach their verdict last night, and before leaving the Utah courtroom there was an extraordinary moment where Paltrow walked over to her legal foe and said ‘I wish you well’. A deflated Sanderson responded: ‘Thank you dear.’
Fans watching the case’s extraordinary denouement on Thursday claimed her decision to commiserate with Sanderson was the star taking the chance to appear magnanimous. Others on social media claimed she was sticking the knife in.
One said: ‘”I wish you well” works on two levels. The gracious gesture to a defeated opponent. But also the “f**k you” subtext’. Another wrote: ‘Let me decipher this for you all. Gwyneth saying, “I wish you well,” is very calculated, a big f**k you, and something she hand selected with the same care she displays when selecting her next eye cream to try’. One joked: ‘Standing by for the I Wish You Well Goop vagina candle’.
Gwyneth Paltrow speaks with retired optometrist Terry Sanderson and said ‘I wish you well’ after he lost the case against her. The jury found Sanderson ‘100 percent’ at fault in the mishap that occurred during a run at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah in 2016.
Social media exploded when she commiserated with Sanderson – many believed it was a put down
A further tweet said: ‘Gwyneth Paltrow whispering “I wish you well” to the guy who sued her and lost is pure troll behaviour, iconic’. Another critic said: ‘That’s cold blooded’.
Others believed the comment showed her in a positive light. One fan said: Wow, she’s a saint. That’s very big of her to be so gracious’. Another tweeted: ‘GwynethPaltrow had to overcome harsh public opinion of her and sit through this trial. She gained a TON with me saying, “I wish you well” to that man’.
The case has captivated millions in the US and abroad after Terry Sanderson sued the actress and Goop founder claiming she crashed into him on the slopes of Deer Valley in 2016, allegedly leaving him with lasting brain damage.
Sanderson said that ‘pain of suing a celebrity’ had been tough to bear during a televised trial – Ms Paltrow’s lawyer Stephen Owens said that her client had been ‘pounded like a punching bag’.
Ms Paltrow, the 50-year-old founder of the luxury wellness brand Goop, is worth $200million (£161million) and won an Oscar for her role in Shakespeare in Love. Her adversary, Mr Sanderson, 76, is a twice-divorced retired optometrist from Utah, whose net worth is unknown.
Sanderson must hand Ms Paltrow a symbolic $1 in damages – but must pay his and Gwyneth’s legal costs, which could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Last night she looked nervous as the verdict was read out and sat with her hands together on her desk. When the clerk of the court declared that Mr Sanderson was to blame, she nodded in appreciation. As the judge thanked the jury she nodded her head in appreciation at them again.
As Paltrow left court she touched Sanderson’s shoulder and said, ‘I wish you well,’ he told reporters outside the courthouse. He responded, ‘Thank you dear’
A downcast Terry Sanderson reacts to the verdict
The decision comes after eight days of live-streamed courtroom testimony that drew worldwide audiences and became a pop culture fixation.
The actress smiled and waved at photographers as she made her way out of court but refused to comment.
Paltrow’s attorney read a statement from the actress outside court.
Stephen Owens, representing the actress, said: ‘We’re pleased with the outcome and appreciate the judge and jury’s consideration.
‘Gwyneth has a history of standing up for what’s right and this situation is no different. She will continue to stand up for what’s right.’
A statement was released by her representatives.
‘I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity,’ Paltrow said.
‘I am pleased with the outcome and I appreciate all of the hard work of Judge Holmberg and the jury, and thank them for their thoughtfulness in handling this case.’
Meanwhile, a deflated Sanderson said he stands by his version of events, despite losing the case.
Asked what he plans to do next, he joked: ‘Maybe Disneyland!’
Gwyneth Paltrow is seen leaving court on Thursday at the end of her trial
Terry Sanderson, 76, is seen leaving the Utah courtroom on Thursday
The actress left court in Park City having told her opponent Terry Sanderson: ‘I wish you the best’
Gwyneth Paltrow has won her case against retired optometrist Terry Sanderson who claimed she caused a 2016 ski collision that left him with him lasting brain damage
Jurors found that Sanderson, 76, was the one to blame for the crash at the posh Utah ski resort. It took just two hours and 20 minutes for the jury to reach their verdict on Thursday
Paltrow’s legal team, led by Stephen Owens, thanked the jury for their service
The actress smiled and waved at photographers as she made her way out of court
Meanwhile, a deflated Sanderson said he stands by his version, despite losing the case
Speaking outside court, Sanderson’s lawyer Kristin Van Orman said she was not starstruck by Paltrow and added: ‘I’ve been a lawyer for 30 years and juries never surprise me.’
Of Sanderson, she added: ‘He is suffering, he’s a very nice man.’
The dismissal concludes two weeks of courtroom proceedings that hinged largely on reputation rather than the monetary damages at stake in the case.
Paltrow’s attorneys described the complaint against her as ‘utter B.S.’ and painted the Goop founder-CEO as uniquely vulnerable to unfair, frivolous lawsuits due to her celebrity.
In his closing argument, Ms Paltrow’s lawyer Stephen Owens said that Ms Paltrow had been ‘pounded like a punching bag’ for the past two weeks during the trial.
Mr Owens said: ‘It’s not a nice thing for someone to throw a press conference and say like King Kong you knocked him out and walked away, skied away. That’s not what happened’.
‘He hit her, he hurt her and he wants $3million for it. That’s not fair.
‘The easy thing for my client would have been to write a cheque and be done with it but what does that tell her kids? (It’s) a cost of business? No it’s wrong that he hurt her and he wants money from her and that’s why we’re here’
‘It’s not about the money, it’s about ruining a very delicate time in a relationship where they’re trying to get their kids together. That’s what Terry Sanderson cost her’.
Paltrow took the witness stand during the trial to insist the collision wasn’t her fault, and to describe how she was stunned when she felt ‘a body pressing against me and a very strange grunting noise.’
While dad-of-three Sanderson says the actress skied into him while emitting what he described as ‘the best hysterical scream you’ve ever heard’, Paltrow says he crashed into her – causing her to lose half a day of skiing.
Sanderson filed for damages in January 2019 – initially seeking $3.1 million. The sum was reduced by a judge to $300,000 in compensation for the injuries he sustained.
Sanderson described on the stand that Paltrow hit him in the back and sent him flying
Paltrow’s account of the collision with Terry Sanderson was shown in an animated reconstruction as the defense claims he was actually the one who hit the actress from behind
Paltrow then filed a countersuit asking for a symbolic $1 and for her legal expenses to be covered.
Sanderson’s lawyers attempted to portray their client as someone who was lively and active before the accident, but significantly altered after.
He claims that she struck him in the back with such force that he was left with ‘permanent traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement’.
Sanderson told the court: ‘I just remember everything was great and then I heard something I’ve never heard at a ski resort, and that was a blood-curling scream.
‘And then, boom, it was like somebody was out of control and going to hit a tree and was going to die. That’s what I [remembered] until I was hit.’
‘I got hit in my back so hard… right at my shoulder-blades, and the fists and the poles were right there at the bottom of my shoulder-blades, serious, serious smack,’ he added. ‘Never been hit that hard.’
Gwyneth Paltrow (far right) reacts during closing arguments in her ski crash trial Thursday as Terry Sanderson’s lawyer (center) told the jury that her version of the story was wrong
Paltrow gives a stunned look at Sanderson before looking over at her attorney who called the testimony ‘ridiculous.’ The judge then told the jury to disregard Sanderson’s words
Paltrow testified in court that Sanderson approached her from behind, and their skis became intertwined
In his complaint, Sanderson argued that Paltrow ‘got up, turned and skied away’ without summoning help, leaving him ‘stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured’.
Paltrow and her team said that their ski instructor was on the scene and assisted Sanderson.
Paltrow’s team argued that Sanderson’s decline, though very sad, was not connected to the accident and pointed to prior medical issues.
They also emphasized that Sanderson’s daughter Jenny said her relationship with her father was troubled for many years.
And they repeatedly noted that Sanderson had emailed his daughters, saying: ‘I’m famous.’
Worldwide audiences followed the celebrity trial as if it were episodic television. Viewers scrutinized both Paltrow and Sanderson’s motives while attorneys directed questions to witnesses that often had less to do with the collision and more to do with their client’s reputations.
The trial took place in Park City, a resort town known for hosting the annual Sundance Film Festival, where early in her career Paltrow would appear for the premieres of her movies including 1998’s ‘Sliding Doors,’ at a time when she was known primarily as an actor, not a lifestyle influencer.
Paltrow is also known for her roles in ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and the ‘Iron Man’ movies.