After much speculation surrounding a broken link, an online sleuth uncovered evidence in the Gwyneth Paltrow ski collision trial that attorneys on both sides missed.
Last week, lawyers for Ms Paltrow argued that retired optometrist Terry Sanderson had GoPro footage of his February 2016 collision with the Hollywood star at the luxury Deer Valley Resort near Park City, Utah.
The defence alleged Mr Sanderson deleted the video because it would unequivocally disprove his claims that Ms Paltrow rammed into him and left him with “permanent traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs, pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.”
The rumoured GoPro video was mentioned by Mr Sanderson’s daughter after he emailed her a link to his ski discussion forum on the Meetup website — she later testified she believed such video probably existed but had not seen it herself.
Ms Paltrow’s attorney Steven Owens said his team had attempted to open the link but said it was purposely faulty.
But tech investigator Michael Fletcher shuttered the mystery around the content of the Meetup link in “just two minutes.” Mr Fletcher told CourtTV the only thing he had to do was create an account on the website and go back to the forum’s discussion on the day the ski crash took place.
“They kept repeating, ‘It’s the most important piece of evidence,’ and they couldn’t figure it out,” Mr Fletcher said. “They [just] didn’t know how to open the link ... Honestly, it’s comical how easy it was, I can’t believe they didn’t do this already. It’s almost a joke ... [It was] just common sense.”
While the link did not direct to the infamous GoPro video, it did reveal several exchanges between Mr Sanderson, witness Craig Ramon and other skiers who were on the slopes at Deer Valley on the fateful day of the crash.
Mr Sanderson’s daughter Shae Sanderson-Herath said she had not actually seen any such footage, though she had believed it existed at the time.
“After my dad told me about what he was feeling and that he could hardly think, and that he had rung his bell, I believe he mentioned there had to be GoPro video,” she told the court. “He said there has to be GoPro footage because there was this big blood-curdling scream, so that means someone with a GoPro would have turned to look and captured it.”
Mr Fletcher, who said he does not have any background in tech, emailed the messages to Ms Paltrow’s attorneys. Judge Kent Holmber ruled on Monday that the messages were admissible in the trial.
In the uncovered messages, Mr Sanderson makes mention of his brain injury and the early signs of its impact on his personality, the issue at the heart of his $300,000 compensation demands.
“I got it Scott, thanks! It’s great to know Craig had my back and still does..! Thanks to all for your concern... it’s official “ at least two broken ribs and a concussion”. the ribs only hurt when I move …” he wrote at the time.
Another post read: “The concussion is causing some rather bizarre physical and personality issues unlike anything I’ve ever faced before. I’m hoping that comes around quickly…”
Messages by Mr Ramon, who was an eyewitness at the scene of the ski crash, also echoed his testimony in court last week that he saw the collision taking place and believes that Ms Paltrow was at fault.
“Scott the thing you did not see was Terry was knocked out cold. Bad hit to the head! Not to sure if Terry has broken ribs,” Mr Ramon wrote. “I did see the hit. Terry did not know his name. I asked Terry what his name was and he did not know. Scott it scared the hell out of me.”
However, another post by Ramon contradicts his testimony that he was not immediately aware that Mr Sanderson was hit by the famous Hollywood actress. Instead, his remarks on the forum show that he was more than familiarised with Ms Paltrow and her celebrity status.
“You can not make this up. Gwyneth took out Terry last week. Last Saturday her son broke his arm skiing at Park City. Gwyneth was staying at The Montage. She took her plane out of Million Air Airport. I wish I did know so many people. What makes me mad is that Gwyneth took out Terry and just took off.”
Mr Sanderson filed for damages in January 2019 and is seeking $300,000 in compensation for the injuries he sustained, prompting the actress to file a countersuit in which she asks for a symbolic $1 should she win and for her legal expenses to be covered.
During the first six days of trial, Mr Sanderson’s attorneys and expert medical witnesses have described how injuries were likely caused by someone crashing into him from behind and attributed noticeable changes in his mental acuity to that day’s injuries.
Ms Paltrow’s attorneys have tried to paint Mr Sanderson as a 76-year-old whose decline followed a normal course of ageing rather than resulted from crashing into their celebrity client.
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