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SALT LAKE CITY — A retired doctor has filed a lawsuit against a prominent Hollywood actress claiming she severely injured him in a "hit-and-run ski crash" at Deer Valley Resort three years ago.
Terry Sanderson, 72, announced a lawsuit Tuesday against Gwyneth Paltrow, Deer Valley Resort and ski instructor Eric Christiansen. Sanderson is seeking at least $3.1 million from the "Iron Man" and "Shakespeare in Love" actress, contending she plowed into him and caused a severe brain injury, skied away without saying a word, and then claimed Sanderson was at fault.
"I've skied for over 30 years, I've never knocked anybody down and hurt 'em. I've never been knocked down or got hurt. I think this is kind of a unique situation and especially when it was unkind to leave me there," he said Tuesday.
On Feb. 26, 2016, Sanderson said he was on a green run called Bandana when an out-of-control skier hit him from behind, "knocking him down hard, knocking him out, and causing a brain injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries," according to the lawsuit.
Just before he was hit, Sanderson said he heard a scream as if the woman about to hit him wasn't paying attention and at the last minute realized a collision was unavoidable.
"I heard this hysterical scream like you never hear on a ski run, never have heard it in my life. Just absolutely like King Kong came out of the jungle or something. It was just instantaneous, I got hit in my back," he said.
Sanderson, who was wearing a helmet, said he fell face first into the snow with Paltrow on his back. When they hit the ground, she rolled off him. Sanderson believes he was knocked out for 5 to 10 minutes.
"I remember feeling sore, my ribs were really sore. And my brain felt like it had been injected with Novocaine, I don't know how else to describe it. It was just numb. Nothing was making sense," he said.
Sanderson said it took him a moment to remember his name, but he couldn't remember where he was.
"I know I'm skiing but I have no idea where I'm skiing. And that's when the ski guy that was there, that I really thought was there to help, he left. And I remember having a sinking feeling in my stomach," he said.
According to Sanderson and his two attorneys, Salt Lake civil rights attorney Robert Sykes and Lawrence Buhler, Paltrow skied off without saying a word, while the instructor she was with berated Sanderson and told him the crash was his fault. The attorneys contend the ski resort later filled out a false report stating the crash was Sanderson's fault.
Sanderson said he has tried reaching out to Paltrow's people over the years hoping for a settlement, but he said her attorney has offered him nothing. Now, the retired optometrist who moved to Utah from Soda Springs, Idaho, said he is suing to be "vindicated" as much as he is for personal injury.
"There was a point in this whole thing, many times, I thought that (an apology) would be sufficient. But when I started getting any senses about me, I started feeling more strongly about the fact this was wrong," he said. "I'm a proud person and I don't like to be told I'm not telling the truth and that she now is telling my truth."
"She knows. She knows what happened," added Sanderson, who said it was "offensive" that Paltrow is not telling the truth.
When asked if he would have still filed a lawsuit and held a press conference if the person he collided with wasn't a celebrity, Sanderson's attorney said yes.
"I think we would be having a press conference for any major ski collision where someone suffers a brain injury and has four broken ribs and the at-fault skier skis away and the at-fault participating ski instructor skis away without rendering aid," Buhler said. "This is a standard kind of ski collision case."
While ski resorts are protected in most cases from lawsuits if a skier crashes, Sykes said the difference in this case is that Deer Valley did not take "proper action."
Deer Valley Resort declined comment on the lawsuit Tuesday. The attorney representing Paltrow's case in Utah directed all calls to Paltrow's publicist in California. Paltrow's spokeswoman, Heather Wilson, said in a brief prepared statement to several media outlets, including USA Today, that the suit was "without merit" and that Paltrow would be "vindicated."
Sykes said all skiers know they are held by a code to not ski recklessly or out of control.
"Very, very important rule for skiers. And it even applies to celebrities, believe it or not. And it applied to Gwyneth Paltrow," he said.
The lawsuit contends Paltrow was skiing "out of control," "too fast for her ability" and "was distracted," according to the lawsuit.
"Gwyneth Paltrow knew it was wrong to ski out of control too fast for her ability … but she did it anyway," the lawsuit states, adding that she was distracted.
The lawsuit contends Paltrow was negligent, and both she and the resort caused negligent infliction of emotional distress.