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Is Gwyneth Paltrow’s Trial Salacious Enough for Media, Public?

Ski lawsuit pits pampered Hollywood retiree versus Everyman, but do we care?

The press hungers for a celebrity trial in the grand O.J. Simpson tradition.

That murder case captured the nation’s complete attention pre-social media. It gave news outlets endless content, and enough ratings to keep their ad coffers full. Every outlet from NBC’s “Saturday Night Live’ to local news stations hung on each new revelation, no matter how minuscule.

The most confounding example of media overreach? “The Tonight Show’s” Dancing Itos sketch.

More recently, last year’s Amber Heard/Johnny Depp trial delivered a similar jolt, although the stakes of their split proved dramatically lower than the former’s double-murder case. Plus, the celebrity trial wrapped before it become entrenched in the culture.

The media likely hope the current Gwyneth Paltrow imbroglio has longer legs.

The 50-year-old Oscar winner is squaring off against a senior citizen alleging she crashed into him on the slopes in 2016, leaving him with permanent brain damage.

The details of the case are complicated, which will hurt the trial’s mass appeal. Plus, Paltrow unofficially retired from acting in recent years which lowered but didn’t erase her celebrity cache.

Her Goop company, which has proven wildly successful despite media mockery over select products, has kept the “Shakespeare in Love” star in the headlines.

The trial is generating some attention so far, and not just from curious lawyers. News stations hope live coverage of the spectacle will amplify our focus on the trial. Punch in the appropriate terms in YouTube”s search engine and you’ll find many media outlets streaming the trial live.

Top 12 moments from Gwyneth Paltrow ski collision trial

They think, or hope, that will help draw attention to the case. Maybe the computer-generated video of the crash could do the trick.

It goes without saying that there’s little hard news value to the case. The man suing Paltrow seeks more than $300,000 in damages, an amount that could be found in the superstar’s couch cushions.

Her net worth is estimated to be $75 million with Goop worth a reported $250 million.

She is counter-suing for $1.00 plus attorneys’ fees.

In a healthy media environment, the case would be of interest to the main players and their respective families.

That’s it.

Yes, it’s tragic that the 76-year-old retiree allegedly suffered brain damage from the collision, but that’s not incendiary enough to draw the public’s consideration. It’s also unclear if the mental issues stemmed from the collision or pre-existing conditions.

News value now means little to today’s journalists. They frequently ignore genuinely important stories (The Twitter Files … Hunter Biden’s laptop) to focus on narratives that align with their progressive worldview.

When it comes to celebrity trials, though, any chance for a ratings bonanza is enough to try the full-court press treatment.


  1. Instead of the Information Age, it should be called “The Clickbait Age”.
    The competition for Views and Likes is intense.

  2. I have a modicum of interest in this litigation, inasmuch as I am a retired civil trial lawyer (insurance related litigation of all sorts, defense of carriers and policyholders against tort-based claims mostly) and an enthusiastic skier. Despite all the foofaraw surrounding this trial, it reminds me of nearly every case I took to a jury. Plaintiff and his lawyer emphasize the seriousness of the injuries, demand “justice,” and generally claim the moral high ground. (They always refer to their clients as the “victim,” rather than the “plaintiff,” for example.) Although the defense lawyers seem a bit odd, based on what I have read of their courtroom demeanor and some of their cross-examination, they seem to be doing all the right things; bringing in the refuting eyewitnesses, the liability experts and the medical experts who poke holes in the plaintiff’s case. After all, the defense only needs to suck enough air out of the plaintiff’s balloon that it fails to surmount the burden of proof; although not quite the same burden of proof as in a criminal trial (“beyond a reasonable doubt”) it is nonetheless plaintiff’s burden to prove all elements of his case on negligence, causation and damages by a “preponderance” of the evidence. I always had a rollicking good time performing court, but loathed the grinding hours of preparatory work required to know the case cold so as to avoid surprises and be alert to all the nuances of litigation that prevail in this venue. As a lawyer, I am relatively sure the plaintiff will fail to sway the jury, unless the jury is so prejudiced against the bigshot movie star defendant that they simply want to enact their version of social justice. As a skier, I find Ms. Paltrow’s version of events much more credible. We’ll soon see.

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