The Gwyneth Paltrow ski collision trial has captivated audiences everywhere for its viral moments (“Well, I lost half a day of skiing”) and courtroom fashion (the $250 notebook). The bombshell trial finally reached a conclusion on 30 March, with jurors finding that Paltrow was not liable.
For those who have only seen viral snippets of the trial online, the Goop founder was being sued by retired optometrist Terry Sanderson over an alleged “hit-and-run ski crash” that occurred seven years ago at the Deer Valley Resort near Park City, Utah. Sanderson, who was seeking $300,000 in damages, claimed that his alleged collision with Paltrow back in February 2016 left him with “permanent traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement”. However, Paltrow claimed it was Sanderson who crashed into her, and filed a countersuit asking for a symbolic $1 should she win, and for her legal expenses to be covered.
Ever since courtroom proceedings began in Utah eight days ago, lawyers on TikTok have shared their professional takes and overall shocked reactions to the bizarre trial.
On TikTok, the hashtag #gwynethpaltrowtrial has garnered nearly 80 million views in two short weeks. One legal expert who’s followed the trial closely is @that_lawyer_says on TikTok. In one video that’s gained 1.5 million views, the Harvard Law School graduate highlighted the trial’s bizarre line of questioning – including one moment when Paltrow’s attorney possibly exposed his personal communications with the actor.
“Gwyneth Paltrow’s attorney just did something I’ve never seen an attorney do in court and I’m shocked,” he began the viral TikTok, before sharing a clip taken from the Utah courtroom which showed Paltrow’s attorney – Stephen Owens – revealing the contents of a note he received from the actor.
“I didn’t cause these damages,” Owens read aloud the note from Paltrow. According to @that_lawyer_says, Paltrow’s attorney “openly disclosed privileged communications between his client and himself in court”.
“That potentially opens up the door to every single statement she’s ever made to her attorney,” he added. “It is a huge deal to waive privilege.”
“You keep sending me notes, ‘I did not cause these damages.’” He just maybe opened the treasure chest for the plaintiff’s attorney to get every single privileged statement that Gwyneth Paltrow has ever made to her attorneys. #gwynethpaltrow #trial
♬ original sound - that lawyer says
The legal expert also showed his followers a video of the plaintiff appearing to stumble over a question about his height, which he joked proved men supposedly lying about their heights extends to the American legal system too.
Jill Coil is a Utah-based personal injury lawyer at Moxie Law Group who’s gone viral on TikTok for her play-by-play recaps about the ski crash trial. Her first video about the lawsuit received more than 370,000 views, as she described the background on the case to her followers. Based on her experience, Coil gave her predictions for the final verdict.
“Jury is going to find no simple negligence on Terry Sanderson’s part and no simple negligence on Gwyneth’s part because they can’t tell who’s at fault,” she predicted. “And at the end of the day, skiing is an inherently dangerous sport. People run into each other, probably an accident. So, I don’t think either of them are going to win.”
Brandis Bradley is a former lawyer-turned-makeup artist who has talked about the “legal malpractice” she’s claimed to spot during the trial with her more than 99,000 followers, while Sara Singer is a Florida-based divorce lawyer who advised Sanderson’s attorneys to rethink their line of questioning during Paltrow’s cross-examination in videos shared with her 88,000 TikTok followers. Meanwhile, Bruce Rivers is a criminal defence attorney in Minneapolis who went viral for his “hilarious” commentary to Paltrow’s testimony.
In one video created by Rivers, he claimed that Sanderson’s attorney came across “starstruck” by Paltrow. “She looks like she’s about ready to ask her out on a lunch date,” he alleged at one point while critiquing the line of questioning. As of 30 March, he’s amassed 122,000 followers on TikTok.
Thoughts on the Gwyneth Paltow Cross Examination
♬ original sound - Official CLR Bruce Rivers
Paltrow’s alleged ski collision isn’t the first celebrity trial to capture the attention of legal experts. Last year, social media was abuzz during the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard defamation trial in Virginia, in which the actor sued his ex-wife for $50m over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post that implied she was a victim of domestic abuse. Though she did not name Depp, he claimed her allegations made it difficult for him to land movie roles.
Throughout the six-week trial last June, a bizarre online obsession grew on TikTok, with people sharing edited clips and conspiracies about the case, so much so that invested fans even found themselves personally dropping off supposed evidence to the Fairfax County Courthouse. The social media circus was largely in favour of the Pirates of the Caribbean star, with hashtags like #amberheardisaliar and #justiceforjohnnydepp popping up online.
The jury determined Heard defamed Depp on all three counts and awarded him $10m (£8.2m) in compensatory damages and $5m (£4.1m) in punitive damages. Heard was awarded $2m (£1.6m) in compensatory damages, but her legal team claimed that the online frenzy surrounding the defamation case could have influenced the outcome of the trial.
Paltrow’s ski crash trial has been like an amusing courtroom drama come to life. While the online memes and Paltrow’s laid-back fashion made the alleged incident appear somewhat unserious, the real-time legal advice from experts on TikTok has made the proceedings resemble a high school mock trial, where they would be the ones capable of deciding the outcome.
The Independent has contacted @that_lawyer_says, Coil, Bradley, Singer and Rivers for comment.