Neuropsychologist who once worked with Tom Brady testifies for Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski collision victim
A neuropsychologist testifying for a man suing Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 skiing collision has lashed out at the defence’s claims that he is “exaggerating his injuries”.
Ms Paltrow is being sued by retired optometrist Dr Terry Sanderson, 76, who claims she ploughed into him on the slopes of Flagstaff Mountain at the Deer Valley Resort on 26 February 2016. Mr Scanderson, who is demanding $300,000 in damages, says he was left with severe brain injuries that left him with “permanent traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and disfigurement”.
On the third day of trial in Park City, Utah, psycho-neurologist Dr Alina Fong hit out at the defence’s claims that Mr Sanderson was exaggerating his symptoms to exploit Ms Paltrow’s celebrity status and wealth. Dr Fong, who opened a clinic in Boston in partnership with Tom Brady, has diagnosed Mr Sanderson with PCS (persistent post-concussive symptoms), which she said happened after the accident.
Experts hired by Ms Paltrow have yet to testify, but when asked about their scepticism about Mr Sanderson’s PCS diagnosis, Dr Fong said that she believed she was the only expert who could make that call. Previously, Ms Paltrow’s attorneys said during opening arguments that Mr Sanderson’s claims were “utter BS.”
“There’s a huge difference between going over someone’s chart in another state or across the world and having that patient in front of me crying,” Dr Fong said in a deposition shown to the jury. “I think it’s very easy to criticise someone from far away and it’s totally different when you’re in the trenches with that patient, trying to get them help.”
She added: “They have a lot of opinions and it just shows that they’re not concussion experts, specifically traumatic brain injury experts and If I’m being completely honest, a lot of their opinions are easily refutable by just going online and looking at the CDC’s recommendations for clinicians on how to treat concussions.”
"Whether he did or did not lose consciousness shouldn't be debated because actually 90-plus percent of concussions don't lose consciousness at all."
Neuropsychologist Dr. Alina Fong testifies during the #GwynethPaltrow ski crash trial. What do YOU think? ⚖️ pic.twitter.com/cllnovL0L2
— Court TV (@CourtTV) March 23, 2023
Dr Fong called Dr Sanderson a “model patient” who, despite putting all of his efforts into recovery, was struggling to this day with the aftermath of the accident.
“He worked so hard, he really gave his best effort,” said Dr Fong, who has treated Dr Sanderson for six years. “We noticed some definite improvements but talking to him now, knowing where he is now, it is clear that he’s still struggling.”
“We’re getting to the point, I mean he is 76, and I worry that some of these issues are longstanding.”
Dr Sanderson received cognitive, speech, occupational, neuromuscular and vision therapy for 32 hours during his assessment week with Dr Fong, about a year and a half after the 2016 skiing accident.
She said Dr Sanderson’s cognitive skills and family life had been affected and by the time she began treating him, his previous enjoyment of life “was gone.”
“The treatment was very intensive .... it was a boot camp,” Dr Fong testified, “He was very compliant ... And then the rest of those hours were filled with before and after imaging. Terry showed up to every appointment on time. He gave his best effort.”
When asked by Dr Sanderson’s attorney if there was any chance she believed he was malingering, Dr Fong said: “None whatsoever.”
“He was someone who didn’t want to be sick and was doing everything he could do to improve where he was at,” she added.
During opening arguments earlier this week, Ms Paltrow’s attorneys had tried to poke holes in Dr Sanderson’s claims by arguing that his injuries could not be as severe as he alleged if he was able to travel to “more than 10 countries” after the 2016 ski collision.
Under questioning by Mr Sanderson’s attorneys, Dr Fong said she had advised Dr Sanderson to travel.
“I encouraged him to try to get back to doing things that he loved,” Dr Fong said. “I did caution him that he should not travel alone because of his memory issues and other problem-solving issues.”
She added: “But I did strongly recommend that he tried getting back to doing things that he loved.”
During the first two days of trial, his attorneys and expert medical witnesses have described how injuries were likely caused by someone crashing into Dr Sanderson from behind and attributed noticeable changes in his mental acuity to that day’s injuries.
Paltrow’s attorneys have tried to paint Dr Sanderson as a 76-year-old whose decline followed a normal course of ageing rather than resulted from crashing into their celebrity client. Her team has previously accused Mr Sanderson of suing to exploit Ms Paltrow’s wealth and celebrity.
They have also attempted to poke holes in testimony from Dr Sanderson’s team of experts and are expected to question his two daughters about their father mentioning Paltrow’s fame and an email alluding to footage recorded on a Go Pro camera that hasn’t been found or included in evidence.
The defence has not called witnesses to testify yet, but said during opening statements that they plan to call Paltrow’s husband Brad Falchuk and her two children, Moses and Apple.