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Gwyneth Paltrow was subject to a merit less claim for however much, and she defended it while bringing a symbolic counter claim for $1, which I understood that she won on that order.

This brings up a whole bunch of questions about the principles on which courts entertain or don’t entertain lawsuits, but the real question here is (in one way, why wasn’t it dealt with in any of a handful of seemingly more sensible ways, while in another) why was it accepted and heard in the way that it was?

On the one hand it seems as though $1 ought generally to be caught under de minimis, or be considered frivolous, if it really is a realistic appraisal of the impact that the civil wrong deemed to have been committed actually had. She said it cost her an entire afternoon of skiing with her family. So is $1 really a fair value for one afternoon of Gwyneth Paltrow skiing and enjoying time with her family? Surely it is worth more even if only on the basis of what she would have paid to the ski resort etc in order to facilitate that leisure activity. That’s not even touching the hedonic value of it which I imagine would apply even if it would have been an afternoon spent enjoying the free sunshine with her family in a public park. In any case, how often do courts hear claims for $10mm that succeed, but actually only for $6mm or $8mm, because that’s what the court feels the damages suffered were actually worth?

So why didn’t the court adjust the damages sought upward in this case, and if it had thought that $1 was actually an accurate assessment of the damages suffered, then why wasn’t the case thrown out as frivolous litigation or de minimis?

For Paltrow’s part it seems that the counterclaim was undertaken largely to prove a point, but do judicial service and courts exist for people to use in maintaining their pride or in making points? Is that what (part of) what courts are there for?

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    Note that Ms. Paltrow's claim was for $1 and attorney's fees, and the latter would presumably be much more than $1. However, from what I can tell the court has not yet decided on whether attorney's fees will be awarded. Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 16:57
  • What would that question potentially hinge on or possibly be awaiting? Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 17:51
  • And Was it necessary for her to counter claim for $1 in order to then also seek the attorney’s fees? Either way, I think most of the question remains to be answered. Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 17:52
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    This case was in Utah if I'm not mistaken, and over there "In Utah Animal Rights Coalition v. Salt Lake City Corp., the Tenth Circuit reaffirmed circuit precedent that nominal damages alone are justiciable." Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 17:59
  • Yeah, I'm partly right about that, it was in Utah, but in state court. So one would probably also have to consider state law and precedents, which I don't feel too inclined to research right now, but I suggest changing the tag from "any jurisdiction" to Utah. Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 18:45

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Without her counter claim, many people watching the case would be thinking "I bet she was guilty, but the poor victim didn't have enough evidence". With the judge ruling in her favour with the $1 award, many of these people will instead say "So she was innocent, and the guy was guilty. How nice of her to only ask for $1 instead of all his money".

So that explains why she made that counterclaim: Legally it doesn't make much difference (although it improves her chances of getting awarded lawyer costs), but the outcome in the public opinion is much better for her.

The important thing with the counterclaim is that when successful, it shows she was innocent (not just "not guilty because we can't prove it"), so it's neither frivilous nor can it be rejected as "de minimis" because she doesn't need the money, but she was defending her reputation.

(Now everyone here hopefully knows that this was a civil case, so "guilty" and "not guilty" should normally not be used, but in the public eye they exist. )

Re comments: So what were her true damages? According to the ruling, someone drove into here on the ski slope, and according to what she said herself she wasn't harmed in any way. So there would be very little in damages. Still, you are not allowed to drive into people on a ski slope, so $1 is not that far away from the correct amount. Maybe she could have asked for $1,000. She could have been injured, then she could have asked for a lot more.

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  • Well, she probably lost whatever fees she paid to access the ski slopes that day.
    – nick012000
    Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 1:04

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