Oscar-winning actress and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow is in court this week for a civil lawsuit.This raises questions about who is legally responsible when collisions occur on the slopes.
InAttorneys for Paltrow, 50, and plaintiff Terri Sanderson, 76, have portrayed their clients as sane skiers as they trade accusations over who was to blame for the crash at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.
PaltrowFriday and denied causing the accident. However, under investigation, he said he had no witnesses to the moment of the accident.
“I have many eyewitnesses [it] “Seconds later, the positions of the bodies on the hill would indicate who was hit,” Paltrow said. She testified that Sanderson caused the accident by sliding on his back. She did not ask about his welfare because she thought the accident was a relatively “minor” incident.
In the face of conflicting accounts of the crash, the case will turn on something more definitive, prosecutors say: the skiers’ location on the mountain when the crash occurred.
Upward or downward?
SandersonIn 2019, she claimed she was skiing carelessly and crashed into him from above, causing serious injuries and mental anguish. Paltrow later countered, saying Sanderson hit her from behind.
The case hinges on which of the two parties acted unfairly while on skis, experts told CBS MoneyWatch.
“When one skier hits another, the issue is negligence. Did they do something wrong?” said personal injury attorney Roger Cohn of Cohn Roth Law.
When skiing on slopes, it is almost always the uphill skier’s duty to be aware of the downhill skier. In other words, the downhill skier — the person further down the slope — has the right of way.
“An uphill skier needs to watch out for a downhill skier. If you overtake someone and hit them, you’re likely to be responsible and at fault,” Cohn added.
According to the National Ski Areas Association’s code of responsibility, which governs ski resorts in North America, “People in front of you or downhill have the right of way. You must avoid them.”
Skiers must “always stay in control” and be able to stop to avoid others.
Ski collisions are not uncommon, and when injuries occur, lawyers are sometimes involved.
“Some lawyers base their entire careers on ski accidents,” Brian “Butch” Peterson, a Colorado ski instructor, told CBS MoneyWatch. He added that he once saw a woman hit by a skier in Vail, Colorado, who had “blasted down a tree line.”
But unlike that incident, most skiing accidents are not caused by skier-skier or skier-skier collisions; They occur when skiers hit a tree or other type of obstacle.
According to the NSAA, 57 fatalities were reported during the 2021-2022 ski season, most of which were the result of skiers hitting trees. 95% of all deaths are male. An additional 54 “catastrophic” incidents were reported during the same season.
Most homeowner’s insurance policies also include general liability coverage, which follows a homeowner when they’re away from their residence and even when they’re on skis.
“If there’s an accident in your home or on your property, it follows you if someone gets hurt and sues you, but if you’re carting a kid to the grocery store, it follows you. Ski collision claims,” says Cutt, Kendall & Olsen of Salt Lake City, Utah. David Cut said.
“So here’s what’s happening. In this case, if Paltrow had homeowners coverage, it pays a settlement or judgment for the limits of the policy,” he said.
Generally, according to Cohn, a lawyer is only involved if the defendant is wealthy or has homeowners insurance.
If a homeowner sues someone who doesn’t have coverage, it’s a waste of time.
But, if they have insurance, that policy will kick in and the insurer will defend and pay the claim.
When two conflict, one party is not always indifferent.
“But if you can show that the other skier skied too fast, behaved inappropriately or should have seen the other skier, there’s a clear case for liability,” he said.
He said, she said
Cutt said he’s tried a dozen or more of these cases in Utah, and the verdict always depends on who the jury believes are the uphill and downhill skiers.
“In this trial, Sanderson says she’s a downhill skier and she runs up to him from behind, and she says the opposite — she’s skiing and he’s plowing her uphill,” Cutt said.
“So what it’s going to come down to is, the jury is going to ask everybody about the conflict and the aftermath, and they’re going to decide who they can trust and who they can’t,” Cutt said. “That Gwyneth Paltrow is the big elephant in the room.”