An attorney for the retired optometrist suing Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 ski crash raised the specter of a conspiracy meant to shield the actress from responsibility in a Utah courtroom on Tuesday morning.
Terry Sanderson claims that Paltrow’s negligence was to blame. Paltrow insists it was Sanderson’s fault.
Deer Valley Resort ski instructor Eric Christiansen, who was named in the original lawsuit, along with the Deer Valley Resort Company, has testified as a witness for the defense. He attributes the accident to Sanderson’s poor skiing that day – and he penned an initial report for his employer blaming the former eye doctor as well.
On the day of the crash, Christiansen was not Paltrow’s ski instructor but was rather assigned to guide her son, Moses Martin, down the slopes. The instructor also admittedly did not witness the crash occur.
Steve Graff, the ski patrol manager for Deer Valley at the time of the crash, took the stand on Tuesday and left after an intense round of questioning from the plaintiff’s attorney, Robert Sykes.
The witness and the attorney tussled over various versions of the incident report filed by Christiansen in the hours after the incident.
“You notice here, ‘name of student,’ this one has been whited out,” Sykes said. “But on one that we have, has Gwyneth Paltrow’s name there, correct?”
Graff replied: “I don’t know which one you have.”
The attorney sought to reiterate: “Well, the one I have has it whited out, but the defense has her name in there.”
“I see this one that’s whited out,” the witness said.
“This was a falsehood, correct?” Sykes asked, zeroing in. “The name of the student wasn’t Gwyneth Paltrow, was it?”
The then-ski patrol director said he wasn’t sure who Christiansen’s student was that day.
“Well, Eric Christiansen’s student was Moses Martin,” Sykes said. “So, if he writes ‘name of student: Gwyneth Paltrow,’ that’s incorrect, right?”
The witness ultimately agreed Paltrow was not Christiansen’s student at the time of the crash as the report indicates.
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Sykes and Graff went back and forth for some time about whether or not the report actually blamed Sanderson for the crash and other actions taken after the crash. The witness was repeatedly asked if various details bothered him and he repeatedly said they did not.
“Nothing so far has bothered you?” Sykes asked, needling the witness. “Everyday life at Deer Valley?”
Again, the former ski patrolman replied he was not bothered.
“Did it bother you that Eric Christiansen, after this crash, goes to lunch with one of the most famous actresses in the world and her family?” Sykes asked. “Did it bother you at all?”
Graff said he thought that was “standard practice” for ski instructors.
“Did it bother you that three hours after lunch or so, he then authors this report?” Sykes asked.
“No,” Graff said. “That’s typical of what happens.”
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“Did it ever occur to you that this instructor might be covering up bad conduct by himself in order to protect Miss Paltrow, a big spender at Deer Valley?” the attorney asked.
Graff again replied in the negative.
“Didn’t you basically wink-and-a-nod at this bad conduct?” Sykes asked, “Isn’t that what you did here today?”
Graff asked the attorney to define what “wink-and-a-nod” means before saying he did not do any such thing.
Sykes asked the witness why Christiansen wasn’t terminated for filing a false report. The witness said he didn’t see anything that was false in his then-employee’s incident report.
“And there was no coverup by Deer Valley, correct?” the plaintiff’s attorney asked as his final question.
“Absolutely not,” the witness said.
As Sykes finished with the witness and sat down, the courtroom camera briefly panned to the actress, who visibly reacted to the line of questioning with a shocked look on her face.
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