Gwyneth Paltrow ski collision: When two skiers crash, who’s at fault?

Oscar-winning actress and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow is in court this week for a civil lawsuit. A 2016 collision with another skierThis raises questions about who is legally responsible when collisions occur on the slopes.

In Court argumentsAttorneys for Paltrow, 50, and plaintiff Terri Sanderson, 76, have portrayed their clients as sane skiers as they trade accusations over who was to blame for the crash at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.

Paltrow took a stand Friday and denied causing the accident. However, under investigation, he said he had no witnesses to the moment of the accident.

“I have many eyewitnesses [it] “Seconds later, the positions of the bodies on the hill would indicate who was hit,” Paltrow said. She testified that Sanderson caused the accident by sliding on his back. She did not ask about his welfare because she thought the accident was a relatively “minor” incident.

In the face of conflicting accounts of the crash, the case will turn on something more definitive, prosecutors say: the skiers’ location on the mountain when the crash occurred.

Upward or downward?

Sanderson Paltrow sued In 2019, she claimed she was skiing carelessly and crashed into him from above, causing serious injuries and mental anguish. Paltrow later protested, saying that Sanderson attacked her from behind.

The case hinges on which of the two parties acted unfairly while on skis, experts told CBS MoneyWatch.

“When one skier hits another, the issue is negligence. Did they do something wrong?” said personal injury attorney Roger Cohn of Cohn Roth Law.

Gwyneth Paltrow enters a courtroom after a lunch break at her trial, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Park City, Utah, where she is accused of hitting a skier during a 2016 family ski vacation.

Jeff Swinger / AB


When skiing on slopes, it is almost always the uphill skier’s duty to be aware of the downhill skier. In other words, the downhill skier — the person further down the slope — has the right of way.

“An uphill skier needs to watch out for a downhill skier. If you overtake someone and hit them, you’re likely to be responsible and at fault,” Cohn added.

According to the National Ski Areas Association’s code of responsibility, which governs ski resorts in North America, “People in front of you or downhill have the right of way. You must avoid them.”

Skiers must “always stay in control” and be able to stop to avoid others.

Conflicts happen

Ski collisions are not uncommon, and when injuries occur, lawyers are sometimes involved.

“Some lawyers base their entire careers on ski accidents,” Brian “Butch” Peterson, a Colorado ski instructor, told CBS MoneyWatch. He added that he once saw a woman hit by a skier in Vail, Colorado, who had “blasted down a tree line.”

Terry Sanderson (left) arrives in court on March 21, 2023 in Park City, Utah. A retired optometrist is suing actor Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 ski collision at Deer Valley Resort.

Rick Bomer / AB


But unlike that incident, most skiing accidents are not caused by skier-skier or skier-skier collisions; They occur when skiers hit a tree or other type of obstacle.

According to the NSAA, 57 fatalities were reported during the 2021-2022 ski season, most of which were caused by skiers hitting trees. 95% of all deaths are male. An additional 54 “catastrophic” incidents were reported during the same season.

Homeowners Insurance

Most homeowner’s insurance policies also include general liability coverage, which follows a homeowner when they’re away from their residence and even when they’re on skis.

“If there’s a hazard in your home or on your property, if someone gets hurt and sues you, it follows you, but if you drive a kid to the grocery store with a shopping cart, it follows you. Ski collision claims,” ​​says David of Cutt, Kendall & Olson in Salt Lake City, Utah. Cut said.

“So here’s what’s happening. In this case, if Paltrow had homeowners coverage, it pays a settlement or judgment for the limits of the policy,” he said.

Generally, according to Cohn, a lawyer is only involved if the defendant is wealthy or has homeowners insurance.

If a homeowner sues someone who doesn’t have coverage, it’s a waste of time.

But, if they have insurance, that policy will kick in and the insurer will defend and pay the claim.

When two conflict, one party is not always indifferent.

“But if you can show that the other skier skied too fast, misbehaved or should have seen the other skier, there’s a clear case for liability,” he said.

He said, she said

Cutt said he’s tried a dozen or more of these cases in Utah, and the verdict always depends on who the jury believes are the uphill and downhill skiers.

“In this trial, Sanderson says he’s a downhill skier and she runs into him from behind, and she says the opposite — she’s skiing and he’s plowing her uphill,” Katt said.

“So what it’s going to come down to is, the jury is going to ask everybody about the conflict and the aftermath, and they’re going to decide who they can trust and who they can’t,” Cutt said. “That Gwyneth Paltrow is the big elephant in the room.”

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