Skiers have likely noticed signs at mountain resorts across the country that say, “Know the Code.” They refer to universalThat applies to people who participate in snow sports that are risky in nature and that involve navigating down crowded slopes, often at high speeds.
But whether they actually understand the code is another question. For those who aren’t familiar with skiing and snowboarding, it’s probably something they’ve never heard of.
All of that changes as actor Gwyneth PaltrowIt is broadcast live from the courtroom. The actor turned lifestyle influencer has been accused of running into a fellow skier during a 2016 family trip to the upscale skiers-only Deer Valley resort in Utah. Celebrity Trial is on day six and is expected to conclude on Thursday.
For a week, the experiment shed light on the unspoken rules governing behavior on the slopes. Testimonials touched again and again on skier etiquette—particularly the sharing of post-crash contact information, and the ski’s turning radius—in the most famous ski crash trials in recent history.
There are about a hundred cipher-related lawsuits now being viewed out of the spotlight. Most cases are settled before going to trial.
Throughout Paltrow’s trial, the word “uphill” appeared as a synonym for “guilty,” as the attorneys focused on one of the key tenets of the code: A skier proceeding on a slope or slope has the right of way.
Rather than focus solely on the question of who hit whom, the attorneys questioned nearly every witness—from Paltrow’s private ski instructors to the doctors to the man suing Paltrow—about which skier was downhill at the time of the collision.
After initially suing Paltrow for $3.1 million, retired ophthalmologist Terry Sanderson is now suing for at least $300,000 in damages. Paltrow contested the $1 and attorney’s fees, claiming that Sanderson came across her.
In court, attorneys on both sides repeated the term “steep” to try to convince the jury that their client had the right of way.
The question became a focal point of the trial, as both sides called hordes of family members, friends and doctors to testify in Park City — the swanky Rocky Mountain town that draws a celebrity crowd each year for the Sundance Film Festival.
Paltrow’s position on the ramp was central to the questioning of her teenage children — 16-year-old Moses and 18-year-old Apple Martin.
In statements read by lawyers in court on Tuesday, the two children testified that they did not see the moment of the accident. Before that could happen, Moses Martin said he saw a man rise from his mother.”
“I was following my teacher but I didn’t know what was going on,” said Moses Martin, who was nine at the time.
His coach testified that he did not witness the moment of the accident, but approached Paltrow and Sanderson afterward.
Apple Martin, then 11, recalled that her mother was in “a state of shock” after the collision, and that she used an expletive to say that a man had hit her while running away.
To support Paltrow’s version of events, specifically that she was a clone when the accident occurred, her defense team commissioned artists to provide advanced animation.
Since no video was included as evidence, memories of Sanderson’s skating buddy who claims to be the only eyewitness become a sticking point for Paltrow’s team. In addition to sharing the animatronics, Paltrow’s team has undermined the man’s testimony by calling experts who argue Paltrow was a cliffhanger.
Over the objections of Sanderson’s attorneys, the court allowed Paltrow’s team to play three of the seven cartoons in high definition on a projector placed between witnesses and the jury’s box—showing pruning on Deer Valley’s aspen trees, children’s ski coats and groomed snow. Novice running as Sanderson and Paltrow crashed.
Irving Scheer, a biomechanical engineer hired by Paltrow’s defense team, has drawn stick figures and line graphs on a whiteboard, as well as jotted down equations that calculate force and torque to say that science supports Paltrow’s calculation.
Scheer testified on Tuesday that “Ms. Paltrow’s version of events is consistent with the laws of physics.”
At a similar skit last week, Sanderson’s attorneys tried but failed to lock up Paltrow for a re-enactment of the events, when the judge put the kibosh on her.
While there are slight differences in state laws when it comes to finding fault, “the issue in court becomes a matter of who the uphill skier was,” said Denver attorney Jim Shalatt, who has filed cases in Utah and Colorado.
“It’s the downhill skier who is almost always in a position to cause the accident,” Shalat said. “If you skate too fast for your own ability and can’t make a turn, and you hit someone, you’re going to get in trouble.”
However, crashes between skiers are rare. Most accidents that result in injury or death occur when skiers or snowboarders hit stationary objects, usually trees. Collisions involving people account for only about 5 percent of skiers’ injuries, Shallat said.
Experts at Paltrow’s trial argued that the over-60-year-old National Ski Resort icon is ubiquitous, with similar etiquette in Canada, Australia and parts of Europe.
The liability code was recently updated to prompt skiers involved in a collision to share contact information with each other and with a ski area employee. Last week, Paltrow was questioned by Sanderson’s attorneys for leaving the collision without first exchanging information with Sanderson. She said she knew one of the family’s ski instructors had dealt with her.
Very few cases target ski resorts where accidents have occurred because of the inherent dangers that come with skiing and snowboarding, said John Morgan, a Los Angeles attorney from Morgan & Morgan.
The mountain where the Paltrow-Sanderson collision occurred, Deer Valley, was removed from the suit in part because skiers absolved resorts of liability by agreeing to a set of rules on the back of every lift ticket.
“It’s like going to a baseball game and you get hit in the head with a foul ball,” he said. “And you know sitting there that there’s some risk of that happening.”
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