Sunday, 14 Apr 2024

The sour optometrist who faces ruin after losing $300k Paltrow case

The optometrist who faces ruin after losing: 76-year-old demanded $300k from Paltrow but now faces huge legal bill after court case that revealed he’d galivanted around the world despite claiming to be ill

  • Terry Sanderson, 76, on Thursday lost his case against Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 ski accident in Utah
  • Sanderson was seeking $300,000 in damages; Paltrow wanted only $1, but payment of her legal fees – which are likely to be substantial
  • Sanderson’s reputation also hangs in tatters, with one of his three daughters testifying that he was angry and his wife had an affair, and lying about lifestyle 

Terry Sanderson was not exaggerating when he wrote the infamous email to his three daughters.

‘I’m famous!’ he said, writing on February 29, 2016.

Three days earlier he had collided with Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow on the ski slopes.

The collision had been bruising – both were left shaken and sore.

But Sanderson’s words would come back to haunt him – and on Thursday night the 76-year-old finds himself far more famous than he ever imagined, with his private life thrown out into the open, and facing potential financial ruin.

On Thursday a jury in the upmarket Utah ski town of Park City found that Paltrow was not guilty of causing the crash.

Terry Sanderson, a Montana-born optometrist who spent his working life in a small Idaho town, is seen in court on Thursday. He now faces financial ruin after losing his legal case to Gwyneth Paltrow

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’

Sanderson had hoped when he launched the suit in 2019 to win a $3.1 million settlement; at trial, that amount was reduced to $300,000.

Paltrow sought a symbolic $1 – but, crucially, she requested payment of her legal fees, which could stretch into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Paltrow’s legal team was headed by Stephen Owens, a former president of the Utah State Bar who served as a clerk for Justice Richard Howe of the Utah Supreme Court.

Owens, who specializes in medical malpractice cases, left no stone unturned in his quest to clear Paltrow’s name, including producing a slick video illustrating how the actress could not physically have caused Sanderson’s injuries.

Sanderson’s attorney Lawrence Buhler, who repeatedly referred to himself as a ‘simple country lawyer,’ will also have to be paid by Sanderson for his services.

The costs remain unclear – it will depend on the hourly rate for each attorney; the size of their team; how many hours they spent on the case; and how much the experts called to testify were paid.

And while Paltrow is worth an estimated $200 million, Sanderson’s finances are far more modest.

Sanderson, 76, who was forced to swap ties Wednesday after showing up in a happy face printed neckwear, opted for a more low key choice for the final day of court

Paltrow arrives for court on Thursday after a break as closing arguments were about to begin

Terry Sanderson’s $700,000 home in Salt Lake City, Utah

Born in Montana, he studied zoology in his home state before training in optometry at Pacific University in Oregon.

For 40 years he worked in the remote south eastern Idaho town of Soda Springs, home to 3,000 people, 160 miles north of Salt Lake City.

He had three daughters – Jenny, Polly and Shea.

He retired, and now lives in a $700,000 bungalow in Salt Lake City.

Perhaps even more bruising than the financial damage is the reputational harm.

Sanderson, over the course of the seven-day trial, has seen his mental stability questioned, and an uncomfortable spotlight shone on his family.

His daughter Jenny had provided a written testimony, calling her father ‘domineering’ and ‘easily frustrated’.

She claimed she did not feel loved or ‘nurtured’ by her father, and said he was ‘verbally abusive’ towards her and her mother – who the court heard was having an affair.

Jenny said she did not have a relationship with her father for 13 years.

Polly and Shea then testified, in court, and described Jenny as troubled.

Polly denied her sister’s claim that their father was abusive, but said he was deeply disturbed after the crash.

Before the accident he was ‘fun-loving, very gregarious, definitely an extrovert,’ she said.

Shae Herath, one of three daughters of Terry Sanderson, is seen on Friday taking the stand

She said that her father was a lively and active man before the crash

Her testimony was emotional and heartfelt as she told how her father had been affected by the collision

‘He enjoyed people, dancing, outdoor activity.’

Following the accident, ‘he couldn’t tell the forest from the trees.’

Sanderson himself testified that he was profoundly changed by the accident.

Describing the physical and mental effects of the crash, he said: ‘I can’t ski any more, I was told if I did and had another crash I could wind up full time in a nursing home.

‘I’m like living another life now.’

He became emotional as he described the end of his relationship with former partner Karlene Davidson in the aftermath of the crash.

‘It was a sad time for both of us, I know, and she’s in a great relationship now… and that was the purpose, and I think better than what I would have brought her, honestly,’ he said.

‘It’s hard to admit that.’

Paltrow, on the stand, said she felt ‘very sorry’ for Sanderson’s declining health following the incident but said she was not ‘at fault’.

Sanderson alleges he was left with four broken ribs and a permanent brain injury. Paltrow denies crashing into the retiree and countersued, saying he was the one who skied into her – leaving her angry and sore

And the retiree exposed himself to further humiliation when Paltrow’s lawyers found photos of him traveling happily around the world.

They used Facebook photos and posts to show the court images of Sanderson riding a camel in Morocco, trudging up to Machu Picchu in Peru, ziplining and bike riding, hiking with his girlfriend, doing Zumba, playing mini-golf, exploring an escape room and more — all after the ski crash with Paltrow.

‘Did you go to Peru?’ asked Owens, Paltrow’s lawyer.

‘Walk the Golden trail? Did you do a zipline? Did you go to Europe? Did you go to the Netherlands three times? Rode bikes? Did bus tours?’

Sanderson replied yes to each question.

Paltrow’s lawyers said Sanderson visited the Netherlands three times, Morocco twice and Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Thailand, Peru and Costa Rica all at least once since 2016.

On Thursday night, Sanderson’s reputation lay in ruins.

His finances might follow, if Paltrow collects the legal fees to which she is entitled.

As she left the courtroom on Thursday, she told him quietly: ‘I wish you well,’ he revealed.

He replied: ‘Thank you, dear.’

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