June 24, 2024

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

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

Oscar-winning actress and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow appears in court this week for a civil trial over a case 2016 Collision with another skaterwith the case raising questions about who is legally responsible when collisions occur on slopes.

in Court argumentsAttorneys for Paltrow, 50, and plaintiff Terry Sanderson, 76, painted their clients as wise skiers while exchanging accusations over who was at fault for a crash at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.

Paltrow Take the stand Friday denied having caused the accident. However, she said during the interrogation that she did not have any witnesses at the moment of the accident.

“I have many witnesses who have seen [it] Seconds later, the locations of the bodies on the mountain indicated who hit whom,” Paltrow said. She testified that Sanderson skated on her back, which caused the accident. She also testified that she did not know Sanderson was hurt and did not ask for his safety because she believed that The accident was a relatively “minor” accident.

Faced with dueling accounts of the accident, the case will likely turn into something tangible, the attorneys say: the skiers’ location on the mountain when the accident occurred.

uphill or downhill?

Sanderson Filed a lawsuit against Paltrow In 2019, claiming that she was skiing recklessly and collided with him from above, causing severe injuries and mental disorders. Paltrow later responded, claiming that it was Sanderson who hit her from behind.

The case hinges on which of the parties acted unreasonably while riding the skates, experts told CBS MoneyWatch.

“When one skater bumps into another, it’s about carelessness. Did they do something wrong?” said personal injury attorney Roger Kuhn, of Kuhn Rath Law.

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

Jeff Swinger/AP


With regard to behavior on the ski slopes, it is always the duty of an up-and-coming skier to beware of a downhill skier. In other words, the downhill skier—the person furthest off the slope—has the right of way.

Kuhn added, “A hard-core skier should beware of a downhill skier. If you overtake someone and hit them, you’re likely to be liable and at fault.”

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

Skaters also must “always stay in control” and be able to stop to avoid other people.

Collisions happen

Snowboarding collisions are not uncommon and when injuries do occur, lawyers sometimes get involved.

Some lawyers base their entire careers on skiing accidents, Brian “Butch” Peterson, a veteran Colorado ski instructor, told CBS MoneyWatch. He added that he once saw a woman hit a skier who came “burst off a tree path” in Vail, Colorado.

Terry Sanderson (left) arrives in court Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Park City, Utah. A retired ophthalmologist is suing actor Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 skiing accident that occurred at Deer Valley Resort.

Rick Bomer/AP


But unlike this accident, most skiing accidents are not caused by skiers or snowboarders colliding. Occurs when skaters hit a tree or other type of obstacle.

There were 57 fatal accidents reported during the 2021-2022 ski season, according to the NSAA, with most resulting from skiers hitting trees. Males account for 95% of all deaths. Another 54 “catastrophic” incidents were also reported during the same season.

Homeowners insurance

Most homeowners insurance policies also include general liability coverage that essentially follows the homeowner even when they are outside of their residence, including when they are on skis.

“It covers you if there’s something dangerous in your home or on your property and someone gets hurt and sues you, but it also comes after you if you’re in the grocery store and you run over a kid with a shopping cart, and it covers you,” said David Kott, of Kott, Kendel & Olson in Salt Lake City, Utah. ”

“That’s what happens here. In this case, if Paltrow has homeowners coverage, that steps in and pushes a settlement or judgment within the policy limits,” he said.

Typically, an attorney only gets involved if the defendant is wealthy or has homeowners insurance, according to Kuhn.

“If you sue someone who doesn’t have homeowners coverage, it’s a waste of time,” he said.

But, he added, if they had insurance, that policy would be activated, and the insurance company would defend and pay the claim.

It is not always the case that one party is negligent in a collision between two people.

“But there is a clear case of liability if you can show that the other skater was skating too fast, behaving inappropriately or should have seen the other skater,” he said.

He said she said

Katt said he’s tried a dozen or more of these cases in Utah, and the verdict always rests on who the jury thinks are downhill and cross-country skiers.

“In this experiment, Sanderson says he was a downhill skier and I believe him from behind, and she says just the opposite—she was skiing along, and you might just hit her from the top of the hill,” Cat said.

“What it will end up being is that the jury will hear everyone about the crash itself and its aftermath and decide who they think is credible and who isn’t,” Katt said. “And the fact that it’s Gwyneth Paltrow is the big elephant in the room.”

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