Terry Sanderson may be compelled to pay Gwyneth Paltrow’s legal expenses after she prevailed against him in a judicial fight over a 2016 skiing mishap.
Last week, a jury ruled in Paltrow’s favor, giving her the symbolic $1 she sought in a countersuit against Sanderson, who claimed the Goop creator ran into him on a Utah ski slope.
According to legal experts, the retired optometrist, who had sued Paltrow for $300,000, could now be on the line for up to $1 million in legal costs if the court presiding over the case holds him liable for covering the cost of Paltrow’s defense.
Sanderson’s liability for Paltrow’s legal fees is dependent on whether or not he is found to have brought the case against Paltrow “in good faith.” According to Utah law, the prevailing party is only entitled to attorney expenses if the case is found to be meritless by a court.
“Utah is different from other jurisdictions, where the prevailing party gets certain costs paid by the other side, but not their attorneys fees,” Jessica Corpuz, a shareholder in the litigation department at Weintraub Tobin in Los Angeles, California, told CBS MoneyWatch. “If you win a lawsuit, you get reimbursement of certain statutory fees, but generally you have to pay your own attorneys’ fees.”
The court, not the jury, will determine whether Sanderson’s lawsuit was brought in bad faith and whether he is responsible for Paltrow’s legal costs, which are likely to be significant.
“The jury determined she won the case, but that doesn’t mean he necessarily filed in bad faith,” Corpuz said. “She now has the burden to prove that he filed this in bad faith — that he knew he didn’t have any grounds, that it was frivolous.”
Corpuz speculated that Sanderson initially sued Paltrow in hopes she would quickly capitulate. “He saw a high-value dollar mark and filed the case thinking she would pay the money to make it go away,” Corpuz added.
Paltrow, for her part, said in a statement after the verdict that she went on trial because “I felt that acquiescing to a false claim compromised my integrity.”
Sanderson’s attorney, Robert B. Sykes of Sykes McAllister Law Offices, said in a statement that his client is considering whether to file a petition for a new trial, challenge the case to the Utah Supreme Court, or pursue other legal options.
“These options will be thoroughly explored between the attorneys and Terry Sanderson at a later date,” Sykes said.