Public opinion of actress Gwyneth Paltrow seems to have changed following her big win in a ski collision lawsuit.
Paltrow was sued by retired optometrist Terry Sanderson in 2019 over a ski crash that he claimed left him severely injured. However, a jury ruled that the Goop founder was not at fault for the accident and awarded her $1 in damages Thursday. Sanderson himself was found to be 100% at fault for the collision.
Prior to the ski collision trial, which lasted for eight days in Utah state court, Paltrow had received an interesting reaction from the public. The Oscar-winning actress has faced tremendous backlash over the years for her beliefs and comments, including the recent drama over her “starvation diet.”
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The actress revealed she often eats bone broth for lunch and mostly veggies for dinner. After being accused of promoting starvation, Paltrow explained herself on Instagram. “I eat full meals,” she insisted. “I also have days where I eat whatever I want, French fries or whatever. My baseline has been to try to eat healthy and try to eat foods that really calm the system down.”
Paltrow also came under fire when she announced she and ex-husband Chris Martin planned to “consciously uncouple” rather than divorce after 10 years of marriage. She reflected on the backlash in a 2020 op-ed writing, “The public’s surprise gave way quickly to ire and derision. A strange combination of mockery and anger that I had never seen. The intensity of the response saw me bury my head in the sand deeper than I ever had in my very public life.”
The lifestyle brand Goop, founded by Paltrow, has also been slammed for promoting “vagina barbells” and excessively expensive items.
But many of Paltrow’s former critics found themselves rooting for her during the ski crash trial. Paltrow’s behavior throughout the trial proved she’s a “class act,” PR and brand experts told Fox News Digital.
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“Sometimes it takes a specific incident for someone to show their true colors and what they are made of, putting aside all the meaningless gossip and perceptions,” Steve Honig of The Honig Co. explained. “The reality is Paltrow handled herself exceedingly well, and it came through in both her verbal and nonverbal language.”
“Added to which, people like to see someone stand up for themselves. This will no doubt pivot people’s opinion of her.”
Celebrity branding expert and founder of Achilles PR Doug Eldridge explained that Paltrow chose to be “authentic” and as an actress chose to play herself throughout this trial.
“‘Gwyneth’ is such a fitting name for Paltrow, because much like a Wes Anderson character, she’s truly one of a kind,” he explained. “She took a positive PR bump post trial for four reasons: 1) she won, 2) she countersued for $1 dollar (along with what is likely mid-six figures in legal fees), 3) her answers were ridiculous, and 4) her courtroom wardrobe was strategic and effective.”
“On the latter two points, you have to understand that Paltrow’s ‘fan base’ is almost entirely female, which is relevant but for decidedly unique reasons. On the wardrobe front, civil trials have become an extension of the red carpet – an opportunity for celebrities to extend and personify their personal brand, like Johnny Depp did last year with his Dior partnership,” he added. “For Paltrow, she played to her fans, from the Dahmer glasses to the muted chic, she knew what jurors and fans would like to see, and she nailed it. We’re a visual society, and she played it to a tee.”
Eldridge further noted that Paltrow is aware of what the public thinks about her and she used it to her advantage.
“Secondarily, Paltrow leaned into her stereotype and gave the viewers exactly what they wanted – equal parts Gwyneth, Goop, Great Expectations, and Margo Tenenbaum,” Eldridge explained. “She quipped (under oath) that she ‘lost a half day of skiing’ and said it with such unapologetic candor, that even the most ‘Cracker Barrel viewers’ smiled and thought, ‘man, that stinks.’ Paltrow didn’t try to become more likable or sympathetic to would-be jurors as parties often do; instead, she embraced her most SNL-worthy criticisms and in so doing, came off authentic, believable, and even likable.”
“At a time when everyone wants to add a filter or round the edges so that a square peg fits a ‘round hole audience,’ Paltrow delivered her best performance to date: she played herself.”
Following the conclusion of the trial, Paltrow stood up and whispered something in Sanderson’s ear before leaving the courtroom.
Sanderson revealed the actress told him, “I wish you well,” to which he responded, “Thank you, dear.”
The lawsuit, brought against Paltrow by Sanderson, was seen by some – including PR expert Dave Quast – to be “extremely opportunistic.”
“Paltrow comported herself extremely well throughout the trial, and she was quite gracious at its conclusion, considering the absurdity of the extremely opportunistic proceedings,” the senior vice president for Red Banyan told Fox News Digital. “She could only have helped her public image among those who look askance at her business pursuits.”
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Paltrow’s attorneys convinced the jury that Sanderson’s version of the ski collision did not match reality and that he was wrong about who caused the collision.
“Maybe you’ve seen a pattern over the course of these last couple of weeks or the last two weeks,” James Egan told the jury. “On the one hand, you have real events and then on the other hand, you have embellishments. On the one hand, you have objective and on the other hand you have subjective reports. On the one hand, you have what happened in the past and then on the other hand have perception of what happened in the past.”
Egan, along with Stephen Owens, also worked to cast doubt on Sanderson’s claim of permanent injury from the ski collision by showing the retired optometrist on a number of activity-filled trips around the world.
During Sanderson’s cross-examination, Owens presented the jury with a round of photos showing Sanderson on various excursions after the crash – including trips to Peru, Germany, Morocco, scuba diving, zip-lining, bike rides and boat tours.
Sanderson said his travels were “part of the healing process.” He testified, “I was told by several neurologists and cognitive therapists, ‘Get back to your routine. As soon you can do that, the better you’ll be.'”
“Looking back at that time, I was determined to prove I didn’t have any mental issues,” he said.
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In the end, the jury sided with Paltrow – who claimed Sanderson had skied into her from behind.
Paltrow testified that she initially thought “something perverted” was happening when Sanderson’s skis came between her own, and he allegedly pressed up against her back.
“I was confused at first, and I didn’t know exactly what was happening. It’s a very strange thing to be happening on a ski slope,” she recalled. “I froze, and I would say I got very upset a couple seconds later.”
The “Shakespeare in Love” actress initially thought she might have been getting sexually assaulted.
“So that was a quick thought that went through my head when I was trying to reconcile what was happening,” Paltrow explained. “Two skis came between my skis forcing my legs apart and then a body pressed against me.”
“My brain was trying to make sense of what is happening,” she added. “I thought, ‘Is this a practical joke? Is someone doing something perverted?’ My mind was going very, very quickly, and my mind was trying to ascertain what happened.”
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Paltrow’s behavior in the legal fight likely earned her some “respect,” but some of her critics may continue to find fault in the Oscar-winning actress, PR expert Kathy Fielder explained to Fox News Digital.
“In my professional opinion, the masses always have previous assumptions of someone with Ms. Paltrow’s celebrity status. Polarizing public figures are adored and despised for many of their choices,” Fielder said. “Ms. Paltrow’s true fans will continue to love and support her, and possibly gain more respect for her, while many of her critics are going to continue to dislike her simply because of who she is and her choices professionally and/or personally.”
“Respect is warranted in Ms. Paltrow’s case, as she stood her ground and handled this situation with grace and poise. Given her status as a public figure her reputation is always at stake,” she added. “This case has earned her some respect in the public eye, in my opinion.”
Fielder noted that Paltrow’s decision to “put herself in the line of fire” and take a “stance” on something where she felt wronged earned the actress respect.
“Irregardless of opposing opinions regarding Gwenyth Paltrow, anyone, public figure or not, who treats a situation such as this with attentiveness has earned respect, finalized by her willingness to wish Mr. Sanderson well at the end of the trial, Ms. Paltrow proved to be a class act,” she said.”
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Paltrow and Sanderson’s legal fight was the result of a 2016 ski collision that left Sanderson severely injured, according to the 2019 lawsuit. Jurors heard testimony from doctors speaking on Sanderson’s medical condition prior to and following the collision throughout the eight days of testimony.
Sanderson accused the Goop founder of skiing off after the accident, which left him with a “permanent traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life,” along with emotional distress and disfigurement, according to the suit.
Sanderson originally sued the actress, Deer Valley Resort and an instructor for $3.1 million and claimed he was a victim of a hit-and-run. A judge dismissed the claim, and Deer Valley Resort and the instructor were removed from the lawsuit.
Paltrow had filed a countersuit, claiming that Sanderson previously admitted he did not have a clear memory of the accident.
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Fox News Digital’s Tracy Wright contributed to this report.