The optometrist who met his doom after losing Paltrow’s bid for $300,000 and now paying legal fees
Terry Sanderson wasn’t exaggerating when he wrote the infamous email to his three daughters.
‘I’m famous!’ he said, writing on Feb. 29, 2016.
Three days earlier, he had collided with Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow on the ski slope.
The collision had left bruises – both shocked and sore.
But Sanderson’s words would haunt him — and on Thursday night, the 76-year-old found himself far more famous than he ever imagined, with his private life thrown into the public eye and potentially ruined financially.
On Thursday, a jury in Utah’s posh ski town of Park City ruled that Paltrow was not guilty of causing the crash.
Terry Sanderson, a Montana-born optometrist who has spent his working life in a small Idaho town, is seen in court Thursday. He is now facing financial ruin after losing his lawsuit against Gwyneth Paltrow
As Paltrow left court, she touched Sanderson’s shoulder and said, “I wish you well,” he told reporters outside the courthouse. He replied: ‘Thank you dear’
Sanderson had hoped when he launched the lawsuit in 2019 to win a $3.1 million settlement; at trial, that amount was reduced to $300,000.
Paltrow sought a token $1 — but, crucially, she asked for her legal fees to be paid, which could run into the 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 Utah Supreme Court Justice Richard Howe.
Owens, who specializes in medical malpractice, left no stone unturned in his quest to clear Paltrow’s name, including producing a slick video illustrating how the actress could not have physically caused Sanderson’s injuries.
Sanderson’s lawyer Lawrence Buhler, who has repeatedly called himself a “plain country lawyer,” will also have to be paid by Sanderson for his services.
The cost remains unclear – it will depend on the hourly rate per lawyer; the size of their team; how many hours they spent on the case; and how much the experts paid to testify.
And while Paltrow is worth an estimated $200 million, Sanderson’s finances are much more modest.
Sanderson, 76, who was forced to change ties on Wednesday after appearing in a printed tie with a happy face, opted for a more low-key choice for the final day of court
Paltrow arrives in court on Thursday after a break as closing arguments were about to begin
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 town of Soda Springs in southeastern Idaho, 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 worse than the financial damage is the reputational damage.
Sanderson has seen his mental stability questioned and an uneasy spotlight shined on his family during the seven-day trial.
His daughter Jenny had given written testimony calling her father “dominant” and “easily frustrated.”
She claimed she didn’t feel loved or “cherished” by her father, saying he was “verbally abusive” towards her and her mother – who the court heard was having an affair.
Jenny said she hadn’t had a relationship with her father in 13 years.
Polly and Shea then testified in court, describing Jenny as troubled.
Polly denied her sister’s claim that their father was abusive, but said he was deeply distressed after the crash.
Before the accident, he was “funny, very gregarious, decidedly outgoing,” she said.
Shae Herath, one of Terry Sanderson’s three daughters, takes the stand on Friday
She said her father was a lively and active man before the crash
Her testimony was emotional and heartfelt as she related how her father had been affected by the collision
“He enjoyed people, dancing, outdoor activities.”
After the accident, ‘he could no longer distinguish the forest for 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 anymore, I was told if I did that and had another crash I could end up in a nursing home full time.”
“I’m living a different life now.”
He became emotional as he described the end of his relationship with ex-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…
“It’s hard to admit.”
Paltrow, on the stand, said she was “deeply sorry” for Sanderson’s declining health after the incident, but said she was not “guilty.”
Sanderson claims he was left with four broken ribs and a permanent brain injury. Paltrow denies bumping into the pensioner and protested 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 happily traveling around the world.
They used Facebook photos and posts to show court footage of Sanderson riding a camel in Morocco, trudging to Peru’s Machu Picchu, ziplining and biking, hiking with his girlfriend, doing Zumba, playing miniature golf, exploring an escape room and more – all after the skiing accident with Paltrow.
“Have you been to Peru?” asked Owens, Paltrow’s lawyer.
Walking the golden path? Have you done a zipline? Have you been to Europe? Have you been to the Netherlands three times? Did you ride bicycles? Bus trips done?’
Sanderson answered yes to every question.
According to Paltrow’s lawyers, Sanderson has visited the Netherlands three times, Morocco twice and Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Thailand, Peru and Costa Rica all at least once since 2016.
Thursday night, Sanderson’s reputation was in shambles.
His finances could follow, if Paltrow collects the legal fees she’s due.
As she left the courtroom on Thursday, she softly told him, “I wish you well,” he revealed.
He replied, “Thank you, dear.”